Goodnight and Good Luck – Ashley JacksonPosted: 18/10/2017
The wheels of change continue to turn in Hampshire as Doug Sheppard tinkers with the Bison roster. The latest change sees the departure from Basingstoke of Ashley Jackson.
What have we lost?
Aside from the fact that the Bison have just released a two sport athlete, former Olympian (and the fact I’m even typing that sentence is pretty crazy), Jackson proved versatile member of the Bison roster. He played across the lines, which we’ll get to in a bit, as well as playing both sides of special teams. The Bison has always been role players and everymen and Jackson proved to be one of the everymen who asked to and could do a bit of everything. Why it’s not worked it going to go below.
Where has he gone?
At the moment, nowhere as he’s been released with immediate effect by mutual agreement. In terms of where he goes, the Invicta Dynamos become instant favourites given that Jackson is Kent based but other NIHL Classic teams like Streatham and London Raiders might also be in the mix.
*Editor’s note* just after publication, Jackson was announced as having signed for the Invicta Dynamos.
Who replaces him?
Well, tomorrow is Thursday so maybe we’ll find out.
With the new structure and the Bison’s move to NIHL 1 South, this move seemed like a win/win. Jackson, a first team all-star in the league last season put on a roster with some of the big names that the Bison were bringing with them from the old EPL seemed to be an ideal sort of signing for this new look Herd side or at least one that the fans could be excited about. Jackson had even put out a statement saying he was focussing on ice hockey this season to put fears of him possibly going to Hockey League India in early 2018 aside. However for whatever reason,despite clearly being a decent hockey player, despite clearly trying every game and despite having 5 points in 4 league games, it’s not worked. Why?
One thing that we’ve seen in recent weeks was that on special teams Jackson had been really prevalent on the powerplay with Vayna Antonov and Tomas Karpov but he’d slipped down the lines in five on five play. For whatever reason, Jackson just didn’t seem to have the impact desired at even strength. Scoring points when the team have the man advantage is great but teams need their top 6 forwards to be scoring when everyone is on the ice.
Under Doug Sheppard the Bison have played really system based hockey and it hasn’t worked very well for some players. I don’t think it’s worked for Ashley Jackson. At Invicta last season he had much more of a free reign to go out and played. Alongside Adam Rehak last year Jackson could go out and yes, there was a structure to what the Dynamos did last season but Sheppard asks his players to play a really structured game and for whatever reason a superb athlete like Jackson’s game on the ice doesn’t fit with that.
With all the recent changes Doug Sheppard has clearly come to the conclusion that he didn’t quite get the recruitment right. That’s fine given that he’s clearly making moves to alter that but I am rather hopeful that this move has been made now because a replacement for Jackson is ready to be announced. For a team that felt it was getting roughed up, they let Dan Lackey go to the Buffalo and haven’t really replaced the physicality he added. If Jackson was meant to provide secondary scoring and play a role that he’s not filled, that can’t go unfilled. Josh Smith has stepped onto the second line and done a fantastic job but there’s also now a hole on the first powerplay unit to be filled and Dan Davies and Grant Rounding still listed as injured. I’m all for making changes but the Herd can’t run that shortbenched for long if they intend to still challenge. There are some good players still unsigned from the summer, a few who deliberately haven’t signed because of the changes to the league structure who hopefully Sheppard has convinced to come in.
When we get down to brass tacks the Bison are starting to pick up some steam then make this move that whilst understandable in context seems to have come at an odd time. There feels like there’s been something of a revolving door of changes recently at a time the roster needs to be getting settled and pushing on. With only one game this coming weekend, perhaps Sheppard sees this as the time to pull the trigger and play with a shorter bench for the shortest possible number of games. The coach still deserves the benefit of the doubt given the recent run of better form but if there is no announced replacement soon then Jackson’s release will look very strange.
Such is hockey; things work or they don’t. There are shades of grey between those two positions and I’m sure that some will feel this move is overdue or premature. Here at BOTW, we see both sides of the coin as always but know that Jackson will fit and work somewhere in this league. It just wasn’t here.
Thanks for everything, Ashley and all the best.