Setting the Scene – Guildford Flames
By Will Martyn (@BoxingGeek)
THE SEASON THAT WAS
The 2018/19 season was a happy one for the Guildford Flames and their supporters. Building on a successful first season in the LHIE that surprised a lot of people, the Flames ended the campaign as champions of the Patton conference, earned a fifth-place finish in the league and reached the finals of the Challenge Cup and the final phase. This is not a bad comeback for a team in its second season in the EIHL.
With regard to his composition, Paul Dixon was inspired by the first line of the EIHL Flames. He gained considerable experience in the AHL in the form of 6 "5," Corbin Baldwin, and added to his core of the University of Alberta, along with the skillful TJ Foster .
But Dixon's main goal was to retain much of the success of the Flames lineup, which had drawn contenders from many teams in the arena.
Captain Jesse Craige and the King of the Slapshots, Calle Ackered, were both built on excellent seasons and the upscale stellar Watters, Reddick and Dunbar was as good as any other league player. Center player Kruise Reddick was the best choice with 81 points in all competitions.
The Flames no longer resembled the new boys, who had flair but were regularly muscular. They now looked like a unit that had learned from the previous season, which had made key personnel changes if needed and was able to challenge the league's best ever.
Dixon will have been satisfied reflecting on the summer holidays.
This summer, the Flames have rightly favored retaining the majority of the 18/19 lined up alumni core of the University of Alberta (Craige, Ferguson, Reddick, Foster and Crooks).
In the current state of affairs, only Kevin King and Evan Janssen are confirmed as not coming back, goalkeeper Chris Carrozzi and center player Evan Ritt should not come back either.
In addition, the club is focused on building a space that will appeal to fans and bring balance to the team, its British contingent.
Stevie Lee returns to the club where he joined the teen on 08/09 and is a bit of a force, bringing experience, quality and joining the success of a campaign after – successful season with the GB team.
In the same way, renewing the signature of British hero Ben Davies will become a very popular signature among Flames fans and once again underlines the club's ability to retain the players it considers most valuable.
The promising Owen Griffiths also joined MK Lightning and, along with Josh Waller, offers insights into what the Flames' British core could look like in the years to come.
The "signature of the summer" of the Flames took place at the beginning of August. Defender Jordan Rowley joined the Pelicans in the Finnish Liiga club, bringing together his former Alberta Golden Bears teammates, bringing experience, skating skill and offensive potential.
He is certainly one to watch – there is only one piece of the puzzle left – the second of two importers of the Flames.
Without Chris Carrozzi, he should not come back, Flames needs a high-end goaltender who can share the burden with Travis Fullerton. It's a key signature that could make the difference between silverware and not. Watch this space.
Overall, the Flames have once again strengthened in the right areas and fans will be delighted with the summer's recruiting activities.
The Guildford Flames and their followers enter the 19/20 campaign with optimism, coupled with a good dose of realism.
Yes, the team has undoubtedly been strengthened, based on solid foundations and it is a more balanced list offering more depth and clean quality at home.
However, the Flames' rivals also had equally impressive seasons and the arrival of talents coming directly from the KHL, SHL and AHL reminds us that the Flames are not yet among the league's biggest hitters.
But optimism is justified. The Flames added team-specific talents to the team's DNA: increased speed, skill and level of competition.
The wholesale change was not necessary and the evolution was rather the call than the revolution. Dixon, the owners and fans will hope to find silverware and with this list, this can not be ruled out.
Flames fans can be a noisy group, both in the outdoors section and on The Hockey Forum, but watching a team like this at home is a joy and the fans have a lot to say.
MY TOP LINE
The expected finish line is: Watters – Reddick – Dunbar. If it's not broken, do not fix it.