Getting (Very) Angry with Greg Mitchell – 27th December

I wasn’t going to write anything this week. I’d told Jono I was going to give it a miss to spend some time with my family and yet here I am sat at the keyboard again. I should be in the next room with the rest of my family. Lord alone knows they’ve seen precious little of me the last couple of days (thanks in part to me not wanting to get up a 6 o’clock to go and spend money in Next). The thing is I should have known I’d be back here doing this, you just can’t trust the Panthers to get anything right.
Neilson has to go. Yet again we’ve been out thought and out played by a team under a rookie coach. Remember the days when we had a powerplay that worked? No, well then it’s really easy for you to imagine it, just picture the powerplay that we’ve got now but imagine the puck going in because it’s no different to what Neilson started with. It’s all based around getting the puck to the blueliners (I’m trying not to call the defencemen) and they slap it in. It worked three years ago but not know. I wonder why? Could it be that others team’s have got coaches who are smart enough to change how they defend it? By my reckoning that makes them smarter than Neilson because he doesn’t look as though he’s got the brains or the humility to realise that it isn’t working. It gets worse. DAB is being played with the wrong linemates. I’m all for not putting your eggs in one basket but he should be playing with someone who might actually pass to him once in a while instead of having to do it all himself. But that’s not all – we’ve got a so-called defenceman “coaching” and yet our defence is terrible. I’m surprised that no one has been garroted by the washing line we have strung across our goal for the poor sod in our net to get hung out on. Neilson seems so intent on signing players in his own, in his eyes, marvellous image that he’s lost sight of the point – winning things. There are people out there who’ll argue that we are entertaining and entertainment brings in the crowds. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – entertainment wins you nothing. You don’t get extra points for fancy goals, you don’t get extra points for 9 goal end to end thrillers. You get points for victories (and draws but we can’t have those in our league for some reason). People will argue that we’re only successful in financial terms because we’re entertaining. I’d argue that we’d make enough money if we kept grinding out wins week in week out without a coach who seems to want to let the opposition back in to the game at times. And still it goes on. How many penalties have we given up in the last few minutes of games this season? We did it tonight and you know what happened. Maybe Neilson should study that part of the DVD to see a) what indiscipline can do and b) how to score on the powerplay. But he won’t, he’ll be in the press and on the official website blaming everyone but himself because in his eyes he can do no wrong and that worries me. It’s not the thing that worries me most, it isn’t what keeps me awake at night. That honour is reserved for that fact that none of this ever changes, we left the netminder to fend for himself as many times last season as this, we took dumb penalties last year, our powerplay stank for large periods of last year and you could say all the same things about the year before. This is not progress, Neilson has had three years to learn something and he looks, to all intents and purposes to have learnt nothing. There’s an old proverb that a mistake is only a problem if you don’t learn from it and boy oh boy have we got problems.
Like any fan I’m pretty fickle and I’d be a lot happier about our team if they’d looked as though knew what their coach wanted them to do over the last couple of nights (I admit, before you all start shouting that I’ve spent the last few hundred words doubting whether he does or not). The problem is that they didn’t and if the stories (I heard them enough times to believe they’re not rumours) that were doing the rounds of the arena tonight are true then somebody, somewhere should be walking (I wouldn’t give them the chance to quit). If Panthers are about anything it is hype and there are no two games that get hyped as much as the two Christmas fixtures that for some reason have to be against them up north. I’m not saying we should play Hull but it would have given me a chance to sleep off the turkey. So, in Panthers terms it could quite easily be argued that these are the biggest games of the season. I don’t think they are but there you go. Let’s say they are the biggest for the sake of this article. If you were Neilson what would you do with your team, bearing in mind that they haven’t played a game in a fortnight? Would you get them training, looking at the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses? Look at how our game plan should be changed to cope with them? Yeah right. No, if the stories are true and I’ve been assured that they are he essentially gave them all a fortnight off to go and do what they wanted, where they wanted. That’s right they couldn’t get to Cardiff because of the weather but he thought it was OK for them to leave the country safe in the knowledge that there was a fare chance that they wouldn’t get back. Add to that the fact that some of the players didn’t get back in to the country until Boxing Day morning and is it any wonder that we looked under-prepared? He wants shooting (but not by David Clarke who was last seen disappearing into the countryside with a banjo looking for a cow’s backside) for this kind of lax behaviour. Essentially we paid for the majority of our imports to have a holiday when they should have been preparing for “the biggest games of the season so far” (TM Gary Moran). When players come over here they should know that they’re here until April (all being well and that is going to mean making some sacrifices) and if that means you’re not going to see your family at Christmas then so be it. In this day & age they can go out and buy Skype or a webcam and talk to them that way. I know it’s not the same and it must be hard but they get paid enough and the holidays are pretty good. Players are human but they’re also supposed to be professional and here to do a job and the terms of that job should be laid out before them before they sign, and if they don’t like it they can ply their wares somewhere else. I get sick and tired about the excuse that players aren’t used to a league structure in the USA or Canada so it takes time for them to adjust. Rubbish. All the coach, GM or whoever has got to say is that we start in September and we expect you to be ready? Is it too much to ask? I don’t think so.

We’ve had a proverb, how about a truism – “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” and we certainly did that didn’t we.
But did we? A full crowd gets the tills ringing, it was a close game and close games are supposed to signal entertainment and that is, at it’s heart what this club is all about. You can say I’m like a broken record and I admit that I am and I will be until something actually changes in this club to put winning at the heart of its ethos. I’m not holding my breath.

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