NHL, We’re Having a Laugh (and why shouldn’t we?)

After what has been a pretty poor start to the season by our own standards, the mood around Nottingham Panthers was all the more positive after two huge signings. I’ll come on to the capture of NHLer Anthony Stewart later, but first I want to cover the very welcome return of Guillaume Lepine.

For those that don’t know, Lepine left the Panthers to seek an AHL contract, ironically however, the NHL lockout put paid to his dream. With Panthers current problems in defence and with an obvious lack of toughness an available Lepine was an automatic choice to return to the squad, especially as coach Corey Neilson is expected to be out for a while with a knee injury.

It is also clear that the players are delighted to have Lepine back. One Tweet from captain Jordan Fox said “So happy Lep is back”, while Matt Francis Tweeted “After seeing Twitter and Facebook blow up starting to wonder who would be the bigger signing in Notts…Lepine or Crosby? #lepineformayor”.

While Lepine doesn’t address all the problems, his return instantly makes us a better team. Opposing players will think twice about starting things and our own guys should play with a little more confidence knowing that someone has their back. More importantly, Lepine is an excellent defenceman and we look much better in that department with his return.

Things then got better later in the evening. After a series of teaser Tweets from the official Panthers account all evening, the club announced the signing of Anthony Stewart from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes on a lockout contract. It is a short-term deal lasting for a maximum of three months due to visa restrictions, however if the lock-out ends Stewart will return to Carolina, if it doesn’t he can return to North America to apply for a full-time visa.

While Stewart is certainly no superstar in the mould of an Ovechkin, Crosby or Giroux, he has played 262 games in the NHL for 71 points (27+44), so he should be the best calibre player currently in the Elite League by quite a long way. Personally I think it is fantastic than we can attract this sort of player and the club deserve a massive amount of credit for getting Stewart to play for the team.

Of course not everyone sees it that way. The amount of vitriol and bitterness being displayed by some supporters of other teams has been quite astonishing. Rather than being excited about being able to see a bona fide NHLer play in the Elite League, we’ve been accused of ‘damaging the league’, ‘creating an uneven playing field’ and best of all ‘threatening the financial stability of other teams in the league’. To these people I say this. Instead of decrying the Panthers for signing Stewart, why don’t you turn your attention to your own clubs and ask why they can’t bring this calibre of player in. Perhaps if your clubs were as financially prudent as Panthers, your team might be able to bring in a player of Stewart’s calibre.

If Panthers were spending money they didn’t have to bring in Stewart than I’d totally agree that we were being reckless. However we can afford to do this, we make a profit so why the hell shouldn’t we? The fans who turn up in numbers each week deserve to see the best team that the budget allows.
Will he help us to a league title? Who knows. Will we win every game from now on? Doubtful. But we get the chance to see a genuine NHL player ply his trade for our team and if some want to deride it then stuff them, because I could not be happier.


2 Responses to “NHL, We’re Having a Laugh (and why shouldn’t we?)”

  1. 2 johnnyfromdonny September 25, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    I’m excited and I’ll be there Sat just like I was last Sat.

    Your ‘article’ started well but then went on to resemble a ‘Balotelli’ tweet or a Cage posting. Don’t let them get to you Jono.

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