Panthers signing bonanza

To use the words of coach Corey Neilson, “we once again mean business” as Panthers announced a signing bonanza last night with the return of forwards Brandon Benedict & Matt Francis, back up netminder Dan Green and securing British forward David Clarke on a 3 year contract.

Before I look at the rest of the returnees I want to discuss Clarke. I do sometimes get really dismayed when I see posts on The Cage saying that Clarke is ‘lazy’, misses too many chances and that he should be replaced. What I would say to these people is where would you get another British forward who would score 40+ goals per season? Answer: You wouldn’t. It seems to me to have become fashionable to bash Panthers British players, just look at the number of people who crawled out of the woodwork to slag off Danny Meyers when Panthers released him. It seems to be the same for Clarke.
Personally I thought he improved his two way game massively last season and showed defensive responsibility that hadn’t been obvious in his game previously. Yes, he does miss a few, however I will say for what feels like the millionth time, if he hit the target more often he wouldn’t be playing in the Elite League. He is still the all time leading scorer in the Elite League and consistently scores more than 40 goals a season. How much hero worship would we (and do) give to any import who manages that?
Thankfully, it seems Neilson agrees with my point of view, saying “Clarkie has got to be among the best British-born goalscorers in the history of hockey over here he is a wonderful athlete and I have certainly not seen anyone to match the power of his shot. In the last few seasons you have seen his game develop and taken to a new level. From time to time I challenge him but he does that himself any way, setting himself new markers. Every year his overall game gets better and the next test for him his to maintain that high level for a 64-game season.”
We now have the best British goalscorer secured for the next three seasons, how can that be anything but positive?

The return of Matt Francis will please most fans. Perhaps the surprise package of last season, Francis performed at a consistently high level, scoring important goals and impressing with his speed & skill. I’d have been very disappointed if he hadn’t returned as I felt he was a key part of the squad last season and can perform another influential role in the season to come. Neilson said of Francis’ re-signing “Fast, skilful, tricky and always hard-working, what else can you say? What else do you want on the forward line? I’m thrilled to have him back, like David Clarke he’s another key guy in the roster. It’s good to have guys who know what the league is all about, the new conference idea is exciting and will make the title race harder than ever, but that’s what we’re here for and to have a core of players who have experienced success on the levels we’ve achieved in recent seasons can only be a good thing for everyone at the club.”

Another welcome returnee is forward Brandon Benedict who impressed me last season with his work rate and grittiness, not to mention his knack of scoring important goals, particularly the overtime winner against Braehead in the play-off quarter finals. Neilson said of Benedict’s re-capture “Benny’s a great guy and he does his job at both ends of the rink. He is a grafter and he grafts every shift of every game. He doesn’t know how to take a shift off, let alone a period or a game.”
Benedict’s return will see him reunited with line mate Jordan Fox. Whether David Alexandre Beauregard comes back to complete last season’s top line still remains to be seen!

Finally back-up netminder Dan Green returns for his third season at Panthers. Realising that he needs more ice time to keep him sharp, Green will spend some time icing for Nottingham Lions in the ENL North, while young Nottingham juniors prospect Sam Gospel will spend some time with the Panthers.
Neilson said “Back-up netminder is a tough job. Just waiting there in case a chance comes along is never going to be easy. Greener’s a great guy, he’s dedicated and he works hard at training. If he can get some games in the minors that’s going to help keep him sharp and young Sam is one for the future, he had some pre-season icetime with us in a challenge match last year and he handled that experience well. The more time he spends with the first team the better he will develop and the better his chances of doing well in the sport.”

Panthers have announced their intent in bringing back some top performers from last season’s double trophy winning squad. The remaining import slots are awaiting to be filled, will one of them include DAB? I await with interest.


2 Responses to “Panthers signing bonanza”

  1. 1 Pucktastic May 31, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I for one hope that DAB returns. Not sure I’d have any others back now apart from those we have signed – happy with the way the team is shaping up 🙂

  2. 2 Fiona May 31, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I agree that the re-signing of Benedict and Francis is great news. Both are quality players with a never say die attitude. On the subject of Clarke, I also cannot understand the negative attitude towards him by so many Panthers fans. Any team in the EIHL would be over the moon to sign him and we’re lucky to have him. His attitude on and off the ice is exemplary and his goal scoring is immense. What’s not to like?

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