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Rumour Has It

This week Paul Balm takes a look at the rumour mill

Here’s a bit of a warning – I’m not writing about ice hockey again this week. If I’m honest I’m not sure what it’s about really, mainly human nature and things like that, but if that’s not your thing or you don’t want to find out if I ever find out what I’m talking about then look away now.
Are they gone?
Yes? Good. OK I’ll make a start.

I don’t really want to get into the reasons behind why Theo Peckham isn’t joining the Panthers. Mainly because we went over it all during last week’s Cats Whiskers Podcast (still available for your listening pleasure) but as we so ably proved during that discussion we don’t really know all the information to actually talk about it authoritatively.
One thing’s for sure though. If nothing else Peckham’s non-arrival has done three things:

1) Freed up a (unknown) chunk of Panthers’ player budget

2) Left a t-shirt shaped hole in Jono Bullard’s wardrobe

3) Set the rumour mill grinding again.

I love a rumour. I’ve even been known to start a few myself. Remember the Doucet to Braehead rumour doing the rounds at last season’s playoffs? That was my fault. I started that purely as an experiment to see how quickly it would get back to me as something approaching a fact. It didn’t take long, under an hour in fact. I know one or two people got a bit upset a) about the rumour) and b) about the fact that it was started deliberately as an experiment and I’m sorry if you were one of them but if it makes you feel any better I don’t see it as a rumour I see it as a visionary prediction completely accurate in all but one regard – I can’t spell Cardiff properly.

All the guessing and counter-guessing in the wake of Theo’s no show have got me wondering where the rumours come from and how some can gain so much credence so quickly.
I think there’s probably a couple of ways that rumours start. There’s the classic I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who is “in the know” and they’ve told them that such and such a player is signing. I’m not entirely sure which is worse – the “in the know” person or the person that is quite happy to pass off third or fourth hand information as fact. In the know people tend to fall into two categories: those who can’t wait to spill the beans about any and everything they’re told and those who hide their “knowledge” behind a smug smile and a few cryptic hints.

Irritating as the smug faced look at me types can be I’ve personally got more of a problem the bean spillers. In fact, if I told someone something in confidence and then it was plastered over every forum and social media site I’d start feeding them mis-information. Let’s face it I’ve already got a reputation for making things up so I’d make sure I lived up to it just to see where the leaks were coming from.

The other sort of rumour is becoming increasingly prevalent and that’s the concept of the rumour as wish fulfilment. Time and time again you see comment that player X (not Weapon X though please) is coming which the person spreading the rumour thinks would be great. Now that seems to me to be little more than that they want this person to sign for the Panthers so they’ll start it as a rumour. Either that or someone has said that a particular player is available which somehow gets changed into a rumour because someone wants it to be true.

I think the end of that sentence is the really crucial part of rumours. There’s either got to be something you want to believe in it or something you really don’t want to believe in it. Take the Ling to Panthers rumour flying round the arena on Saturday night. Was there anyone there that didn’t hear it. Why did that spread so quickly? Because people wanted it to be true. Now, Panthers currently have a habit of proving me wrong so if there’s been any sort of announcement in the last couple of hours welcoming David back to the team then you can ignore the rest of this.
Things can become true because we want things to be true. That’s what is probably happening here. It also works in the opposite direction. I think the Doucet to Braehead rumour spread so far so fast because people didn’t want it to be true and there’s nothing some people like more than to believe the worst is going to happen and given that they say that misery loves company it’s no surprise how it spreads.

These things are nothing without a little credibility though. If people want David Ling to re-sign (or Lee Jinman for the older fans amongst us) then surely a rumour that Sidney Crosby was coming would spread even quicker wouldn’t it? No, it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t spread because everyone knows it isn’t likely to happen. With David Ling it’s possible it could so that makes it believable which in turn makes people feel that they can believe it and when that happens they’re going to tell other people.

What does this prove? Nothing much really. Or if it does I can’t really see what it is. I think people like rumours though no matter how unlikely because it gives them something to look forward to or appeals to their sense of dread and foreboding. Unless of course you’re the person who started it all in the first place as a joke, in which case you’re just cruel, nasty and vindictive raising people’s hopes on false promises.. Oh, I’ve just remembered what I said about Doucet…

The Cat’s Whiskers Podcast – Great British Face-Off

It’s the first TCW Podcast of the new season with Jono Bullard, Paul Balm, Aaron Lord & Andy Haywood.
Before looking back on all of Nottingham Panthers pre-season games against Coventry Blaze, Manchester Storm & Braehead Clan, they discuss Theo Peckham’s decision not to come to Nottingham.

Post game in Manchester Jono interviews Storm Podcast host Clare Freeman while Aaron talks to Storm GM Neil Russell & AVFTB’s Paddy Smyth.

After discussing Clan & Steelers CHL games, other pre-season matches and Lee Salters one-game DOPS ban the guys answer some of your #AskTCW questions.

The podcast concludes with a look ahead to Panthers home game against the Dundee Stars this Saturday.

Download & listen via iTunes, RSS or Spreaker

Or listen to the embedded stream below:

Like A Joke Without The Punchline

Paul Balm returns with his first article of the new season on pre-season, walk-up tickets & Panthers TV

Pre-season is a strange time of year. It feels like a joke without a punchline. Like there’s something missing. That something is probably intensity. The players don’t want to get injured before the season starts and the emphasis is more on how the team played than the result. Take either of the games this weekend. If we come out of either of the corresponding fixtures with the same result in the league then I’ll be gutted but I felt mildly optimistic (not confident you understand) about what’s to come.

We’ve not see our full team yet but that’s probably a topic for another week but some of what was there showed promise. We’re winning face-offs again thanks to Matthew Myers and Evan Mosey has come back looking pretty sharp as well. I thought David Clarke looked a little tentative in Manchester until he scored but who can blame him for that. A special mention has to be given to Connor Glossop who took his chance to show the coaching staff what he can do with both hands. And very skilled hands they are too. He’s definitely one to watch for the future and I can see him making the same step up as Ollie Betteridge in the next year or two. Finally, add to that with a couple of impressive performances from Mika Wiikman (please don’t call him the #Wiiking in my presence) and new defencemen I didn’t really notice (always a good sign for me) and I’d say we’ve got the foundations of a fairly decent team.

The thing is that that’s all there is at this time of the year – foundations. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a full team, half a team or three quarters you’ve only got the start. OK, you can give yourself the best start possible by signing players cleverly but the one thing that will make the team grow is how gel together as teammates and bound together as people.

And that’s why I hate predictions at this time of the year. You might already have listened to our pre-season shows (if you haven’t please do but read this first it isn’t imperative) you’ll know that we were all asked to give our predictions for who’ll win the conferences and the league. Why do we have to stick our necks out like this now? Why can’t we make them in October when we’ve got more idea about how things are going to pan out. We manage to prove we don’t know much week in week out without the need for this added chance at humiliation. The thing is that they’re popular and now is the traditional time so I’m probably going to have to grit my teeth and say the first team that comes into my head every season until I decide I don’t want to do this anymore. I can’t remember who I said I thought would do it now but it’s out there now for good or bad. The truth is that I have no idea who will win the league.

Before I move on I’d like to point out that I’m writing this article on Tuesday, 1st September 2015 (it’s currently 8:54). I’m saying that so you understand that what I’ve written below was correct at the time of writing as things have a tendency to change very suddenly which can make people look a bit daft. That’s all, OK? I’ll move on.

Did you see the announcement from the Panthers that if you don’t book your ticket in advance and buy them on the door the box office will just allocate you “best available” (their quotes not mine) tickets? No, I’m not surprised neither did I until I was told about it and went looking. It’s right at the bottom of the article about the fact that two more players are coming in.

Now is it just me (yes, I know, it probably is) but shouldn’t something as important as that deserve it’s own article on the website? OK, there are plenty of season ticket holders out there who won’t be affected but there are also plenty of us who can’t afford to spend that amount of money in one go and buy their tickets week to week. If I want to sit in the seat I like I’ve got to buy it with a credit/debit card online or make an extra journey to the arena all so that the box office can “save time”. I don’t get it, I’ve never missed a face-off yet when I’ve “walked-up”.

That’s not really the point though. It’s a question of priorities. Why was something like this tucked away in the penultimate paragraph of an article but a teambuilding visit to play with Lego gets a full article on it’s own? OK, the reference to the popular Scandinavian building block is a tad facetious but I could have picked any number of articles that do not affect the fans when this information does.

For some reason there are people out there who want to know my thoughts on Panthers TV (life’s too short to type its full title) and now I’ve finally got round to watching it I can do just that. I don’t know what I expected from it really. I’ve said plenty to say about Panthers’ communications in the past (paragraphs) so I have to admit I approached it with a certain amount of trepidation. I liked the idea but then I liked it over three years ago on a drunken night out with Jono Bullard so the problems I foresaw were always going to be in the execution.

There are problems but they aren’t as bad as some have said. I wouldn’t recommend it but if you watch some of the first episodes of Cats Whiskers TV there are flaws in those too but if Panthers work on them the way we did it could be worth watching. They’ve got a professional media company involved so they need to listen to their advice. There’s some good content in the first episode but comedy can be very hard to do or put another it’s incredibly easy to be unfunny (I should know that better than anyone). They need to think about what people want and tailor the content of future episodes. It can be hard at times but you can learn a lot more from what people say they don’t like than what they do. All I’ll say is moles…

Having said all of that I’ll be tuning in again to see where the show goes.

The Cat’s Whiskers Podcast – Erhardt Conference Preview

In the second of two EIHL Season Preview Podcasts Jono Bullard, Paul Balm, Aaron Lord & Andy Haywood are back in the Bunkers Hill Inn to discuss the prospects of Nottingham Panthers, Sheffield Steelers, Coventry Blaze, Belfast Giants & Cardiff Devils.

Jono also speaks to Belfast Giants forward Jonathan Boxill about their roster for the coming season and also speaks to Coventry Blaze webcast commentator Stuart Coles about the Blaze’s chances.

Download & listen via iTunes, RSS or Spreaker

Or listen to the embedded stream below:

If you missed our Gardiner Conference Preview that is available on this link.

The Cat’s Whiskers Podcast – Gardiner Conference Preview

In the first of two EIHL Season Preview Podcasts Jono Bullard, Paul Balm, Aaron Lord & Andy Haywood are in the Bunkers Hill Inn to discuss the prospects of the teams in the Gardiner Conference.

As well as the round table chat Aaron speaks to Manchester Storm head coach Omar Pacha about his aspirations for the coming season. Jono also speaks to Slapshot Scotland Craig Anderson about the chances of Edinburgh Capitals, Dundee Stars, Fife Flyers & Braehead Clan.

The Erhardt Conference Preview is available on this link.

Download & listen via iTunes, RSS or Spreaker

Or listen to the embedded stream below:

Making Up The Numbers

Ian Braisby writes a tale of Quality, Quantity & Nationality.
Note: Ian wrote this article prior to the signing of Cam Jannsen

So the new season is just a few weeks away, the players have started returning to Nottingham for pre-season training and the publicity machine is in full swing. At the same time, head coach Corey Neilson is still putting the finishing touches to his line-up, with one import left to announce.

Yes, one import left to announce. This summer, rather than the players themselves, one of the biggest talking points for Panthers fans has been the coach’s decision to start the season with just 12 imports rather than the maximum 13 allowed in the Elite League. Needless to say, this announcement has caused a good deal of controversy and debate.

There have been rumblings of discontent among some supporters, with accusations of cost cutting and complacency, and the phrase “short-changing the loyal fans” getting regular outings on forums and social media. The general consensus is that as one of the EIHL’s “biggest” clubs, the Panthers should be icing the maximum number of overseas players allowed (and even recruiting spares), not starting short.

But are the accusations justified? Personally don’t think so. While of course I don’t want to see Panthers making big cutbacks and being outspent by clubs with, theoretically, much fewer resources, I don’t see any evidence that this has happened. I tend to think that our owner gives the coach a very competitive budget to recruit his team, and our history of replacing players and adding to the roster mid-season reveals strong financial backing, not the kind of penny-pinching some accuse the club of engaging in. At the same time, I do not want to see Panthers go down the road of throwing daft money at achieving short-term success. I value the stability of my club over any immediate gratification such a policy might provide.

When it comes to the decision to go into the season with 12 imports, I think it’s down to the way the coach has chosen to spend his budget rather than a lack of budget available. In an interview, Neilson said he felt we had enough depth in the squad without signing the full number of imports initially. Although he didn’t mention money, we all know he is working within certain financial constraints and every decision he makes has implications.

I take two main things from what he said. The first is that our imports are an upgrade on last year and thus are costing more. As with any new player to the country, it’s very much “wait and see” but I can see a big improvement not just in pedigree but also in the type of characters that have been brought to the club. After two poor seasons, I would certainly rather see us spend our money on 12 good imports than have a number of weak links. The second point is that the coach is endorsing the quality of our British players, and this is actually the key factor for me.

In the EIHL, every team has to have a number of British players on its roster. While imports are usually the biggest stars in the league and the players who we mainly think of as bringing success to clubs, history has shown that especially when it comes to winning league titles you need a solid contribution from your British players too.

Pretty much every title winning squad since the league was formed has included at least a couple of Brits who matched many of the imports for performance and were key players over the season. The Panthers are no different. Yes, we think first of names like Beauregard, Lepine, Kowalski, Ling and Fox as being the mainstays of our success under Corey Neilson, but those rosters always had an excellent basis of British players.

Of course, it is well known that the talent pool is relatively small and the number of top quality British players is limited. While there are some excellent home-grown players around, I do not feel I am being too controversial or biased in saying that, taken as a unit, the British players on the current Panthers roster is the strongest group in the league. Needless to say, such a strong home-grown contingent comes at a price, especially considering the scarcity value of top British players. It’s not really that surprising to me that recruiting such a strong British core might have to come at the expense of a 13th import, at least initially. But I’m actually pretty pleased about that. Two reasons – the first is that the quality of imports has been so variable recently, and is such a lottery anyway, that I prefer players whose capabilities are known, and second because I think those we have are genuinely good players. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say familiarity breeds contempt, I certainly believe some people have a tendency to take for granted and underestimate the quality of our British lads. And to fall into the trap of playing down the importance of strong British players, who can do more than make up the numbers and give the imports a longer sit down. So how about we take a look at them?

Let’s start with David Clarke, winner of more silverware than any other man in our club’s history. The league’s all-time highest goalscorer. A player who, in the past decade, has only been outscored by four import team-mates over a full season. A man you can be confident will bag you 25-30 goals, more than any of our imports managed last year. Am I happy for my club to spend a chunk of its player budget on that kind of signing? You bet I am. And if we had signed an import with that proven pedigree, people would be rubbing their hands together in glee.

Then we have Matthew Myers. Another important part in our most successful period ever as a club. A great all-round game and a signing that addresses some massive weaknesses from last season – namely our terrible puck carrying and transition play and our woeful efforts in the face-off circle. So our coach signs a proven performer who can add things we lacked the previous year – how can that be a bad thing?
Robert Lachowicz is one of the best readers of the game, and has some of the best hands, in the Elite League. He is also one of the most effective penalty-killers. Granted, he had a poor year last time around, but so did most of our roster and we know exactly what he is capable of.

Backing up these three, you have Robert Farmer, a huge fan favourite, fantastic attitude, a real team ethic and an excellent agitator, Steve Lee, who has grown into a solid all-round defenceman in Nottingham, Paul Swindlehurst, a highly-rated GB international, and youngsters Sam Oakford and Ollie Betteridge, who will relish the opportunity to improve their game with more ice-time.

By spending a sizeable chunk of his budget on these players, Corey Neilson is putting his faith in their quality, and the fact that they bring proven ability and a history of winning trophies with our club. If you include back-up netminder Dan Green, our current roster features five players who have won the treble (or as the Elite League prefers to call it, the Grand Slam). No other team can match that. And they contributed too – the three forwards among them had a combined 160 points that year – and fully expect them to play a big part this coming season as well.

At the end of the day, we may end up signing a 13th import at some stage. Especially if Clarke or Lee has recurrences of their long-term injuries, we may welcome the flexibility it brings us. But for now, I am more than happy for our coach to sign an import less than he could because of the strength of our British players, some of whom any other EIHL team would snap up in a moment if they had the opportunity. They bring more than enough to the table to merit their spot on the team on ability, not just nationality, and give us the solid foundation we need – when you add better quality imports than last year to the equation – to start challenging for honours again.

The Cat’s Whiskers Podcast – Incredibly Familiar

Jono Bullard, Paul Balm & Andy Haywood are back with the latest TCW Podcast.
They discuss Panthers signing of Stephen Schultz, the loss of Erick Lizon, why the roster isn’t complete yet and Panthers new Panthers TV project.
Jono speaks to Elite League referee about officiating in the UK and David Simms about Sheffield’s & Braehead’s chances in the Champions Hockey League.
The guys also discuss the coaching changes in Belfast, if Braehead are title favourites and finish by answering some of your #AskTCW questions.

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The Cat’s Whiskers Twitter

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