The Waiting Game

Despite the signing of Jeff Dimmen today are you concerned that Panthers have only signed three imports so far while other teams snap up players like they’re going out of fashion? Paul Balm, like Gary Barlow, says have a little patience…

When I started thinking about this article I decided I needed to find out how many active professional/college/university ice hockey players there are. If I’m honest that was a mistake I should just have said “a lot” but I stuck with it and I reckon that there are at least (at least) 16,500 players. I then thought I needed to find out how many teams there are but I decided that enough was enough and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was trying to prove with the figures anyway. There’s also the fact that I don’t much like doing research because I’m too lazy.

Anyway, the figures are close enough for what I’m trying to say so they’ll have to do.

As I write this it’s the 19th of May 2015. The Nottingham Panthers have signed the grand total of 11 players and only three of them are imports. Some people don’t like that, they see other teams signing players and are running round like Chicken Little crying doom and gloom to anyone daft enough to listen. OK, they’re probably the same people who were claiming that signing our team early last year because of our CHL involvement ruined last season but the subject of how fickle some sports fans are is one for another day (I actually quite like being fickle but I might change my mind about that later). It can be difficult watching other teams signing players when all your team appears (important word that) to be doing is signing new sponsorship deals but

I think at the moment we have to be a little bit more patient. Read the first paragraph again. You could just read the second sentence if it helps. There are over 16,500 players out there for Corey Neilson to choose from. Except there aren’t. Some of those players are too good or not good enough, some will already have contracts for next season, some will be retiring (although with our record as a half-way house to retirement they could be enticed here), some wouldn’t get work permits, some will have no interest whatsoever in coming to a little hockey backwater. So what does that leave us with? Who knows frankly but let’s say that the criteria listed above takes out a third, that’s still 11,000 players out there. It could be more, it could be less but you hopefully get what I’m trying to say. There are a lot of players for Corey to choose from and that takes time.

There’s also a big benefit in signing players later. You might not get the pick of what’s out there – it’s a bit like going to the Next sale at 10 o’clock. Some of the best stuff will have gone but you’re only looking for things that fit you anyway. Signing players late give you the chance to weigh up what your opposition have signed and that gives you a pretty accurate idea of what the quality of teams will be next season.

Having said all that I think there is more pressure from the fans these days to sign players earlier. When I think back to when I started watching teams were only allowed three imports and we were lucky if we found out who they were before August but no one seemed to mind. We didn’t have the luxury of being able to find out what a player was like before we actually saw them play either. I’ve lost count of the number of “free scoring centres” the Panthers have signed who weren’t. We had to believe the hype in those days, we couldn’t stick a name in Google and see what they’re really like, unlike today.

A word of caution is needed here. If you’ve read the press releases that the Panthers issue that basically say nothing more than “yes, yes, we know, we’re working on it OK?” there is a regularly used phrase that you should either ignore or at least take with a pinch of salt . It varies word for word but essentially it boils down to “lots of players want to play for the Panthers”. Of course they do. That’s not arrogance that’s a statement of fact. It could just as easily be written as “lots of player’s agents are sending us their CV as their client needs a job somewhere/anywhere”. It will be the same everywhere. Hundreds/dozens (again who knows how many) of CV’s will be passing across the coach’s desk at any number of teams. If it wasn’t the case at our club I’d be worried. You’re not being misled so much as misdirected. It’s spin. There’s a well known brand on the high street that brags that their clothes are “Always up to 60% less”. Think about that, it doesn’t really mean very much. All it is actually saying is we’ll knock at least 1% off what we tell you is the RRP of anything in the store. It’s a bit like “the coach is working hard to put the team together”. Great, that’s what he’s paid to do isn’t it?

I appreciate that people want news but sometimes there is no news. These things can and do take time. Panthers take pride in the fact that they don’t reveal signings until everything is ironed out so why do they feel the need to effectively tell us, if not nothing, then that they’re doing what they should be doing anyway. There doesn’t need to be this constant dribble of nothingness. The signings will come, we know that. Most of us can wait to be told something concrete. Maybe that word “most” is the problem, maybe the team put out these empty statements in an attempt to appease the minority that can’t wait (maybe they’re not a minority, I don’t know). If that’s the case, I think they’re wrong, the only thing that will truly appease them is signings and that is just going to make things worse.

Typically, as I’m writing this Panthers have gone and made a mockery (at least sort of) out of this whole article by announcing the signing of Jeff Dimmen (insert your own light bulb joke here). I guess that will keep the baying hordes from running about wailing for a while. Maybe they should take this as a sign that the team is getting there. Dimmen’s signing marks the halfway point if the 22 man, four line squad is to be believed. We’ll get there, at which point they’ll probably start moaning that we’re in the wrong place. We might be, we’ll have to wait and see.

Coming soon: A Child Divided – A small person’s guide to coping with parents that support rival teams.

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