Building the Herd – Miroslav Vantroba

#18 Miroslav Vantroba

Position: Defence

Born: Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 7th July

Miroslav Vantroba decides on another year in Basingstoke. (c) 5 Hole Photography

Miroslav Vantroba decides on another year in Basingstoke.
(c) 5 Hole Photography

As the Bison roster races towards completion before the summer has seemingly began, Doug Sheppard announced the final of the club’s 5 imports for the new campaign with the return of Slovak defenceman, Miroslav Vantroba.

37 year old Vantroba enters his 4th season with the Bison after 3 very successful campaigns with the Herd. Having moved to England in 2013, Vantroba has 105 points in 157 regular season games along with the full set of EPL trophies as a league, cup and playoff winner.

Vantroba’s career started with his home town Spisska Nova Ves before moving to Kosice where he would spend the next 3 seasons tallying 59 points in 162 games. Vantroba moved to the Czech Extraliga where he played 48 times for Karlovy Vary before retuning to Kosice in 2004.

Vantroba was with Kosice for another year and a half before he moved to MHC Martin proving to be a popular player with Martin fans, spending 3 and a half years with Martin. Vantroba’s performances earned him a call up to the Slovak national team, making 4 appearances and scoring 0 points.

After his time with MHC Martin finished in 2009, Miro moved on to Banska Bystrica making 100 appearances in 2 seasons before moving to Zvolen for 2011/12 for a single season.

For 2012/13 Vantroba started the year back with his home town Spisska Nova Ves in the second tier before moving back to the Extraliga with HK Nitra to see out the year. After some discussions reportedly with Edinburgh, Vantroba chose to accept Doug Sheppard’s offer to move to Hampshire.

This signing shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone. Anyone who has watched the Bison for more than a couple of years will be starting to see the pattern; given the Bison are generally there or thereabouts in terms of competing, Sheppard does not blow the roster up and start again. He maintains a core of players. If he needs to upgrade or sees the chance to, then he will but he won’t do it for the sake of doing it. Given that Vantroba has been at the heart of the most successful Bison team of recent times, the fact that Sheppard has brought Vantroba back shouldn’t shock anyone in broad terms.

Having been one of the higher scoring defenceman in the EPL for the last couple of seasons (the highest in 2014/15) Vantroba is generally a really solid, all around defenceman. He is generally positionally sound, he’s not afraid to take the body, he is always looking for that pass to start the breakout, he can add secondary offence and his big shot is always useful. If you sit back and examine the other import defenders that have come into the league during the time that Miro has been here, how many are still here? How many have genuinely been that massive step above him in terms of quality? Yes, people will have their favourites and there’s certainly arguments to be made that there are better defenders in the league than Vantroba but that much better?

I have no issue with the signing at all though over the last season, I spoke to people who at times were losing patience with Vantroba. The two main criticisms of him were that he got caught out of position and that he gave away the puck too much.

I’d say over the course of last season that they are valid criticisms of him having watched a lot of his game. When someone is drawn out of position, Vantroba tried to cover all the bases at once which stretched him and the team on the ice. Against some teams you’ll get away with that, against others, not so much. The turnovers get noticed a lot but were a mixture of things from the Bison’s high press and pressure on the powerplay to the fact that at 37, Vantroba just isn’t as fast as he once was.

The questions that we need to ask ourselves are 1. whether the risks of Vantroba’s game are worth the reward and 2. could Sheppard find anyone better either here or elsewhere to replace him. Sheppard has obviously made his decision on that question. I’d also argue that Sheppard’s recent record means his decision making on players is worthy of getting the benefit of the doubt. The analyst in any of us can generally rectify ourselves to any player recruitment decision at EPL level with enough time. Swapping my analyst hat for the fan hat with Bison horns, I really like Vantroba as player so I’m really pleased to see him back. If he was going to be replaced then that’s a big step for Sheppard to have to take given that the defence is a relatively stable unit and again conceded the fewest number of goals in the league. Yes, Vantroba makes mistakes but so does everyone. Do we replace Reynolds or Mogg or the netminder for x number of mistakes over the season when those mistakes are not numerous and the end goal keeps getting achieved?

The discussions will rumble across the season no doubt and there will be Miro quietly pocketing another 20-30 point season from the blueline while the rest of the team rushes around beside him. He is not immune to criticism, especially justified ones but I do think he’s earned the right to be given another year in the jersey. The blueline corps is strong. The blueline corps works. The day is coming when it will need to be changed but I don’t think right now is that day.

Welcome back, Miro.

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