Curtain Down 2012/13

And now, the end is…here. The 2012/13 EPL campaign for the Bison ended on Saturday night in Coventry in the shootout to eventual playoff winners the Manchester Phoenix so it’s time for the traditional Banners On The Wall freeform end of season look back. This is Curtain Down.

 

Playoffs:

 

We made it. Doesn’t even matter that much that they didn’t win, they made it.

As seems to be the way with my life at times, the end of season rolls around and I end up nowhere near the hockey I want to watch. To be fair, my mother in law’s 60th birthday was a pretty good reason to miss it. I also recommend hunting round for Watergate Bay Hotel, that’s where I was for a bit and it was totally worth it.

I read all the tweets, I joined in with the Phoenix live podcasts from The Windmill. I wanted to be there yelling myself horse. My wife however, genius that she is mentioned a very salient point. “I’m sorry you missed it all dear but better they lost when you weren’t there than win the whole thing when you weren’t there. You’d have been insufferable.” She’s right of course, I would have been.

At the 2012 playoffs, a Phoenix fan (it was either Ben Knight or Tambo) mentioned that the Phoenix needed to learn how to play in those types of games to learn how to win them so a loss, whilst upsetting, would be a good thing later on. I can only think this will lead on to better things for the Bison.

I have also banned my family from inviting me to anything next year.

 

The season:

 

People say “opinions are like backsides, everyone has one.” When it comes to the Bison’s 2012/13 campaign, opinions are like Nick Clegg; sort of right but not all there.

I’ll say this off the bat, if this team had stayed injury free they’d have been champions. That’s not to massage anyone’s ego nor is injuries an excuse as to why they didn’t win but injury free they’d have done it and done it in style. However, as evidenced by the existence of Coldplay records, we don’t live in a perfect world. Despite a very good team and challenging for all the trophies the Bison ended up with no more than the 4×4 trophy again and whilst that’s a fun way to start the pre-season, we all know what we really want.

The removal of Fojtik from the line up in place of Cesky was a calculated risk by Doug Sheppard that worked as long as the rest of the defence stayed healthy. When first Reynolds then Symonds suffered injuries, that plan fell by the wayside a bit. Couple that with a loss in form around Christmas and it cost us the title. Circumstances didn’t go the team’s way and that’s hockey.

I mentioned in his return piece that Sheppard won some dice rolls and lost others this season and I still think that rings true here. That said to go from 6th to 2nd, no cup semi-final to the semis and to finally make the playoff weekend, it’s hard to really be too down on the season. When you consider the equivalent piece at the end of last season questioned the very goals of the club itself, we’ve come a long way baby.

Some people say “well you didn’t win anything” or “you threw the title away” and expect us to be all doom and gloom but we’re not. I’m certainly not. Why would we be? Sure there are things that are sad about the campaign but to dwell on some parts of the campaign means missing the bigger picture. Sheppard has built on a platform that the years of stability under Moria gave the Bison and has turned us into what we wanted the club to be; relevant in the discussion. Did we spend more than the season before? Many say yes, the club say no but I’ll leave you to your own decisions about that.

If I have to grade the season, I give it a high B+. It would be too easy to gush over this season, content with the progresses made but I think if we’re honest this team has room to improve and Sheppard is aware of that as well. The team were very good, at times great; winning the season series over Manchester home and away with some superb defensive hockey, 2 shutouts in the first 6 games and denying Guildford the title in our building to name a few but we also saw moments like that home loss to Sheffield where no hockey was played and we fell right into the Steeldogs game plan or the last minute winner for Jez Lundin (uggh) in Guildford. It wouldn’t be right to give this team a solid A when there is work to be done and nothing in the trophy cabinet…yet.

This team doesn’t need many tweaks to it to finally get some silverware back to Basingstoke, I think even a hardened Bison hater will be forced to admit that and we await the first re-signing from Sheppard that isn’t himself. Whether he decides to run 4 import forwards again is interesting. Provided there is a very strong British defence corps then it could work but I venture that Sheppard will stick with a 1-3 split.

The other big question is the return of Stevie Lyle. Rumours abound about his location for 2013/14 at the moment but then again, they were always going to. 1. This is Basingstoke and for some reason this seems to happen more to our players. I have no scientific evidence for that bar what I read and take in (nobody ever seems to have these rumours about Mark Lee) and 2. He’s the best goalie in the league, any club with the means to talk to him or doesn’t already have a goalie secured for next year will want him.

This summer promises some moves but hopefully we keep the core of what is a very good side together. The choices however lie with those in the know, not us.

 

What’s to come:

 

Banners On The Wall keeps going as it always does. There will be changes to the format of bits and pieces as I go along and change things. The bigger change will likely be to Standing in the Way. I want to try and incorporate…OK, borrow from The Cat’s Whisker’s format and get fans of the other EPL teams to contribute to the pieces so you get a view of someone from that team and then mine.

I’m also going to be doing a chunk of writing over the summer for the Australian Ice Hockey League’s website, offering my usual brand of opinion and analysis as their season ticks on so keep an eye on their website for those bits.

Otherwise there won’t be much changes. I think that Banners On The Wall over it’s 2 full seasons of coverage of the Bison and hockey has become a good place to read something different than what you can get elsewhere. This blog has evolved its format and its style as time has gone on and I honestly believe it’s for the better. There is much to be done and much to see and hopefully you’ll join me on that adventure.

I owe my wife Emily a debt of gratitude for putting up with me as she does. I can’t thank everyone else by name, I’d be here all year but know you’re appreciated.

The 2012/13 EPL season is done. It is finished. The waiting begins and Doug Sheppard has an empire to build. Rome wasn’t built in a day but the day is coming. 2012/13 has given many of us that feeling that one day the title of this blog because a tangible thing.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer whatever you do and wherever you go. We’ll be back with Building the Herd or Goodnight and Good Luck, whichever comes first.

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