Coaching Conundrum

Two weeks into the off-season and the coaching situation at Nottingham Panthers still isn’t clear. Jono Bullard looks at the options for the top job in the club.

David Simms often divides opinion, but in a recent tweet about Jeff Hutchins leaving Dundee Stars Simms said “The most important person at the club is the coach, he must be the boss”. With the coaching situation at Panthers still unclear two weeks into the off-season, Simms’ comments ring true for me. Hopefully we will find out who will be coaching the Panthers for the coming season very soon, until then speculation will continue as to who will be taking the job. Here are some of the candidates…

Corey Neilson
Neilson is the most successful coach on Panthers history, of that there is absolutely no debate. However two not so good seasons have put Neilson’s position under pressure and divided the fan base. Personally I’d be happy to see Neilson continue in the role, stability is important for me and I think he deserves the chance to try and turn our fortunes around.
Others feel differently and would like to see the club take a different direction, but without the distraction of Europe and the record he has I still think Neilson should have the chance to keep the reigns for another season. If he isn’t in charge next season I hope he leaves on his own terms, because personally I don’t believe he deserves to be sacked after everything he has achieved here.

Paul Adey
If Neilson is to go then the smart money will be on Panthers legend Paul Adey to replace him in what would be his second coaching stint at the club. Adey was coach from 2001/02 – 2004/05 which saw the club through the end of the Superleague years and into the Elite League. While his first coaching job could hardly be described as successful, he did end Panthers six season trophy drought with the clubs first Challenge Cup victory in 2004.
Since leaving Panthers Adey became an experienced coach on the continent with spells in Italy & Switzerland, before returning to the EIHL with Belfast Giants and winning the league title.
Adey will bring vast experience of working around Europe and winning an EIHL title, however after leaving on not so great terms after his last Panthers spell, would Adey himself entertain a return?

Chuck Weber
The Coventry coach won many plaudits after guiding the Blaze to the play-off title caused many fans throughout the league to question if continually recruiting from within the Elite League was the right approach.
Weber came to Blaze from the KHL, but prior to that had vast experience as an assistant coach/head coach/director of hockey throughout the North American minor leagues.
Weber took what was a poorly performing Blaze team and turned them into champions through disciplined coaching and playing to their strengths. He has been seen as a breath of fresh air for the Elite League and while it’s unlikely that a coach of his calibre will stick around at this level, his appointment shows that experienced coaches of his ilk will consider a job in the EIHL.
If Neilson is not to return a coach in the mould of Weber would be very welcome indeed.

Peter Russell
A name that probably wasn’t on the radar prior to this week but after an excellent performance at the World Championships the GB Head Coach has been noticed.
While Russell does not have any EIHL coaching experience he does have vast knowledge of international hockey through his association with Team GB under 20’s and the senior team.
Throughout this past week it is clear that Russell commands respect of his players, is a great tactician with the ability to change a game plan during a match and can also motivate his team.
There is perhaps a concern that he doesn’t have the contacts with regards to bringing in imports (a role for a director of hockey perhaps?) but his performance with GB shows that he could perhaps make the jump to the Elite League quite easily.

All we have to do is wait and hopefully the situation will be resolved as soon as possible, preferably this coming week. If Neilson is to leave I hope Panthers don’t take the option of a rookie coach or a player-coach, a club of our stature should be employing a full-time bench coach. Whether that is Corey Neilson or another incumbant remains to be seen.

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