GSHC have had quite the past twelve months.
Of course, their was their very first Spengler Cup championship last December, which saw the club, featuring many former outcast NHLers, defeat KHL squad CSKA Moscow in the final game by a score of 5-3. This season, Geneve-Servette finished the Champions Hockey League group stage tied for first, boasting a 5-1-0-0 record while grabbing 15 points in the process. Their participation in the tournament was made possible for being an NLA play-off semi-finalist the season before, and while it wasn’t a championship that they managed to claim, it was still huge for their recent success.
GSHC’s Spengler Cup trophy wasn’t the only hardware the team would bring home. An impressive four players were named to the tournament All-Star team, with former NHLers Matthew Lombardi, Kaspars Daugaviņš and Tobias Stephan, as well as Finnish defenseman Markus Nordlund, grabbing four of the six possible spots receiving honorary status.
There’s just one slight issue with all those names. Lombardi, who actually started the season with the New York Rangers in the NHL, is the only player listed above that is returning to GSHC this season. In fact, Nordlund wasn’t even an official member of the club, but just a loan for the four game tournament. Of course, Lombardi is expected to be one of the top players in the tournament, but the firepower from last year will surely be missed.
While that was all nice and dandy back in 2013, this is a different team this time around. Gone are the four stars from last year’s tournament in addition to other notables such as Garrett Stafford, Denis Hollenstein and Lennart Peterell. Luckily for the club, the new additions of goaltender Robert Mayer (who played for GSHC at the last Spengler), defenseman Paul Ranger and forwards Matt D’Agostini, Taylor and Tom Pyatt are surely going to impact them positively in a tournament where experience is key. All five already have NHL experience from the past couple of seasons, and while the skill level may not be the same as it was in 2013, there is surely reasons to expect the team to get similar results from the newcomers.
Goaltending will be an interesting situation. Both Mayer and Christophe Bays have had their fair share of injuries this season, and just recently, former Davos backup Janick Schwendener has been given a chance to show his worth. He’s still on loan from Davos but with the situation between the pipes proving to be tough all season long, the club will need some spectacular goaltending from the young prospect. Without Tobias Stephan like last year, it’s going to be tough.
The group stage of the Spengler wont be an easy task to survive for the defending champions. Competing in the Torriani division with KHL clubs Salavat Yulaef Ufa and Jokerit Helsinki, GSHC will have their work cut out for them in order to avoid an early exit. The team did come out on top after the Torriani round robin last year, beating CSKA Moscow out by a single point to secure a bye to the semi-finals. This time around the club will have to defeat two Russian league squads, which should prove to be tougher than the AHL’s Rochester Americans from the AHL. Rochester didn’t have an awful tournament last year, but having to adjust to the big ice gave GSHC the advantage. This time, they wont have that extra push as both Jokerit and Ufa already compete on the larger international ice surface.
Regardless of the new competition, the team is going to be one of the sharpest out of the gates. Experience doesn’t matter a whole lot when a good chunk of your main core moves on, but they do know what it takes to win in a short tournament like this. You don’t have the time to gain your legs and catch up to everybody. So with players like Lombardi and Picard expected to play a big roll again, watch GSHC to be a contender when the trophy presentation gets closer.
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