Goodnight and Good Luck – Ciaran Long

Whilst it’s been coming since the “Great Signing Binge” in June, nothing is ever set in stone in British hockey till its announced formally. With that it came out today (5/7/11) that #89 Ciaran Long won’t be back in Bison colours next season.

 

What have we lost?

 

Losing Long means we’ve lost a versatile member of the Bison roster. Long played across the 2nd and 3rd lines either in a scoring winger or checking role depending on what was required of him. After he came back from his shoulder injury mid season he saw time playing on the point of the powerplay with Mindy Kieras. Having a strong shot meant that he provided an extra option and made the Bison powerplay harder to deal with as it wasn’t as obvious the puck would be going to Kieras every time.

 

Long was also a very good agitator when he needed to be, the prime example being Swindon’s Egidijus Bauba who he harassed and badgered to past the point of frustration. Bauba’s effectiveness was minimalised and resulted in Bauba taking penalties which left Swindon an import down.

 

Where has he gone?

 

Long has moved north to join defending EPL champions Manchester Phoenix. He was announced alongside Nottingham junior system product Josh Ward. I will always have a sceptical eye on Phoenix press releases (read anything I’ve ever written about Chris Wiggins as to why) but this one is pretty decent.

 

Press release: Link

 

In my eyes Long is a replacement for Greg Wood on the Phoenix second line but some including our friend The Angry Budgie feel he’ll be playing third line minutes. Budgie felt that Long shows Hand is possibly moving away from having an enforcer towards more physical players who can play.

 

For me, that’s a bit of a waste because if he’s on his game then a goal scorer like Long shouldn’t be crashing and banging around on the third line. Also (and despite what some say, it does happen) when Hand’s teams are in a tight spot he shortens the bench. As Bison fans will remember from the playoff games against MK, Long is brilliant in the clutch. If Long can’t get onto that second line he won’t play in those close situations and I don’t think he’ll like that. It’ll be interesting to see how he is used.

 

If Ciaran doesn’t find his stride, gets disinterested or (Heaven forbid) gets injured again it could be a tough season for him.

 

Who replaces him?

 

I don’t think anyone replaces Long exactly, more his functions are spread around amongst a variety of people. Second line minutes and that scoring ability come in the form of Joe Miller, third line checking and agitation will likely come in the form of Craig Tribe, third line secondary scoring will come (at a guess) from Liam Chong. You never know, one player may step up and try to cover all of Ciaran’s roles including his willingness to drop the gloves. If asked to guess at one person I’d go for Tribe but as I’ve said above it is likely roles will get shared around the roster.

 

Final thoughts

 

I know some people really wanted Ciaran Long back in a Bison jersey. Indeed, after the loss to MK I would have readily accepted him back. As I said in that piece he stepped up in the biggest league game of the season and got the equalising goal that got the team back into the tie.

 

I like Long’s style of play; he can do a little bit of everything at times when it needs to be done. He can score goals, has a decent shot, can be tough, can check and can agitate when required. When the pieces click together, Long can be a real asset.

 

Nobody’s perfect. At times in games I felt he looked disinterested and maybe when we needed that bit of extra effort in the last couple of minutes he didn’t provide. Also hopefully that shoulder injury has healed properly because the last thing Manchester will want is someone on the sidelines for a while.

 

Ciaran is a young man with a decent future in the game and hopefully some time under Tony Hand will bring him on and see him in the top flight of the sport before too long. He’s young enough where it could still go either way and he could end up as a career EPL player when I feel the potential is there for so much more from him.

 

At the end of the day Mo has decided to go in a different direction this season and that means, for whatever reason, Ciaran isn’t part of the plans. Would it have been nice to have him back? Sure, but we can’t dwell on these things. Such is the nature of British hockey.

 

He’s landed on his feet by being signed up in Manchester and we wish him all the best. As I said, I just hope he’s used properly.

 

 

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