Building the Herd – René Jarolin

#?? René Jarolin

Position: Forward

Born: Skalica, Slovakia

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 26th November

The newest member of the Herd, René Jarolin. (c) 5 Hole Photography

The newest member of the Herd, René Jarolin.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

With the news that Joe Rand has stepped back from playing hockey thanks to reasons of life the announcement came that, at least in the short term, his replacement would be Rene Jarolin.

The 34 year old Slovak started his senior career in the second tier with Spisska Nova Ves in 2000 before spending the majority of the next 5 years with HK 36 Skalia with a brief stop in Zvolen.

A move to Slovan Bratislava in 2006 lasted only 10 games before Jarolin moved to SKP Poprad where he would spend the better part of the next 3 years before heading back to Skalia in 2009 where he would spend another two seasons.

In 2011, Jarolin took an opportunity presented to him to join the Edinburgh Capitals and was an instant success with the Scottish side as he finished the season as the EIHL’s top goal scorer with 43 goals and 75 points in 60 games. The next season in Edinburgh didn’t bring the same points totals (31+40 = 71) but Edinburgh did make the playoffs and fell at the quarter final stage.

After two seasons in Edinburgh, Jarolin headed back home to Slovakia where he signed on with Dukla Senica in the second tier and scored 50 points in 41 games. He also appeared in the top tier at the end of the season as he guested for MHK Zilnia

For 2014, Jarolin heard the call of the North and headed back to Scotland and tallied another 30 goal, 56 point season for Edinburgh alongside current Bison netminder Tomas Hiadlovsky before signing on with Milton Keynes to start this campaign where he scored 5 goals and 17 assist in 20 games.

Jarolin is a veteran of nearly 500 games in the Slovak top flight with 161 goals and 160 assists in 478 games with only 214 penalty minutes. He also averages over a point per game in the Elite League and EPIHL.

So the rumour mill is done with. Frantisek Bakrlik has made his way to the MK Lightning, Marko Luomala has gone…somewhere and Rene Jarolin is, for the moment, a member of the Basingstoke Bison.

The decision of Joe Rand to step back from hockey left a void in the Bison roster that needed filling. Rather than step into the void himself, Doug Sheppard has chosen to go out and get someone to fill the available roster spot. Given what’s been available over the last couple of days, the decision made will have had to have been made quickly but knowing Sheppard it still will have taken a lot of consideration.

For whatever reason, Pete Russell felt that Rene Jarolin wasn’t working with this season’s MK Lightning roster. Sometimes it happens; players are brought into a side and they do not fit irrespective of whether they play well or not. Jarolin is over a point per game but was released. I’d postulated that something was up as he hadn’t looked quite as on point as the other Lightning imports this season.

Jarolin’s release from MK reminded me a lot of when the Bison released Marek Dubec under Steve Moria. Questions about whether that team had too many natural centres aside, Dubec was clearly a decent hockey player. He was a hard working professional who could do a job but it was the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time so both sides moved on. That’s hockey.

It’s also worth noting that maybe the game played in the EPL just doesn’t work with Jarolin’s style. Jeff Hutchins, Shane Johnson, Matt Söderstrom; all decent players at EIHL level who dropped to the EPL but just didn’t work for some reason.

The other key question I suppose we need to answer given yesterday’s announcement by the Lightning is why not Frantisek Bakrlik? In some ways, I don’t think it was a case of whether Sheppard could get it wrong here. Whilst Bakrlik has a well known offensive upside and despite his current low penalty minute count this season, his temper is a known factor. Despite a few claims I’ve seen on Twitter that the Bison are goons (they’re not, just watch the team play) the Herd have suffered from taking too many penalties on the road. Is the offensive upside that Bakrlik provides worth the potential downside of when the red mist descends? It’s likely a question that has been considered. With Greener, Watt and Lack in the team do the Bison need a forward who averages 140PIMs a season?

With the loss of a big body who has usually been good at providing secondary scoring but had 9 points in 21 games (and now we sort of know why if he was struggling with a work/work/life balance), the Bison have brought in a player who scored 104 goals in 169 EIHL games and is a point per game in this league into a team with 1 player over a point per game and 4 just under it. In a team with three players over 50PIMs and 5 over 30PIMs, Sheppard has added a guy whose total penalty minutes in 190 games in Britain is 79. That’s not to say I’d have said no to Bakrlik, for his faults he is a superbly talented player and arguably one of the best in the league but I certainly understand why Jarolin could be added to this Bison group instead of him. Nearly 35 years old or not, Rene Jarolin is a player that should be able to do a really good job for the Bison with the right linemates and used in the right way.

As to who Jarolin goes with, I say stick him with Joe Greener and Ciaran Long. That to me looks like a really solid top line if they find a way to play together. The return of Grant Rounding means he can slot into the line with Aaron Connolly and Shaun Thompson which gives the Bison three really solid lines with a bit of grit, a bit of speed and a touch of scoring across the board.

How long the Jarolin experiment lasts remains to be seen. It might be exactly like it was at MK and maybe the EPL isn’t the league for him. He is not a like for like replacement for Joe Rand so whilst he’s stepping into the shoes of a really popular forward who did a lot for the club, we need to remember to judge Jarolin on his own merits. It may not all work out as we’re expecting. That said if it works, this is going to be a lot of fun to watch.

Welcome aboard, Rene.

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