Devils on the rise?
Dave Simms considers what trophy challenge Cardiff Devils can mount next season.
By Dave Simms
Last Updated: 29/05/13 2:46pm
Nottingham, Belfast, Sheffield. I thought the Elite League was a closed shop when it came to trophies. So who then took it upon themselves to invite the Cardiff Devils to the party?
News that former Fassa (Italy) goalie Frank Doyle will be between the Devils' pipes next season is another statement of intent from Gerad Adams that Cardiff are fed up with being the bridesmaids and fancy a shot of leading the procession down the aisle.
Early days I agree, not half a squad yet signed by Cardiff or any other Elite league side, but the Devils have certainly been the team showing ambition and intent.
Gerad Adams' first job was keeping the quality British players he had. Phil Hill was always staying, he has had his one year away from Wales and didn't like it so no worries for Adams there. Every club with ambition would have had a sniff at Mark Richardson. The 26-year old D-man would top most clubs wish lists but he again stuck around in Cardiff, perhaps looking long term at the move in a couple of years to a new building.
The man of the moment was Ben Davies. He ended last season with a career equalling 14 league goals and followed it up with rave reviews at the World Championships. The likes of Sheffield and Nottingham, who were both on the search for new British talent, would have had a dabble there mark my words. Adams though convinced the young Welshman that despite Cardiff being trophy-less for several years the Big Blue Tent is still the place for him.
Hill, Richardson and Davies are a good starting point, and then though you add the up and coming brigade in Cardiff: Josh Batch, Luke Piggott, Adam Harding and Rupert Quiney and their Brit Pack equals most. The one British player all clubs don't want to see in Cardiff is Matt Myers. Why? Because Myers is a bull and the Big Blue Tent is a china shop. The smallest ice pad in the league with one of the league's toughest competitors isn't a prospect any other club will be looking forward too. That's why the Myers signing from champions Nottingham made every club and their coach take notice.
Now having this great British talent is all well and good if you can complement it with some excellent imports. If however, by signing a great crop of home grown players you have spent too big of a proportion of your budget then it's false economy and the decision will backfire on you. Adams and his assistant Neil Francis are old pros. They won't need that lesson on budget expenditure from me. They wouldn't have made the British signings they have unless they had assurances from ownership that there was still enough money left in the pot to bring in the quality imports that will turn Cardiff from a middle of the table team into a challenger.
Adams and the ever reliable Mark Smith return on the blue line. Add Richardson, Batch and two more imports and that is as good a six D-men as most clubs will put out come the star of September.
That leaves six import forwards, three GB international forwards and a pack of hungry young Welsh players thus meaning the Devils could be the first four line side in the Elite League era. Adams and Francis already have the league's number one goal scorer re-signed in Mac Faulkner and a tough new winger in Andrew Lord. You know only too well that Max Birbraer will almost certainly be added to that list during the summer. If the Devils can also persuade Captain Stuart MacRae, perhaps the most under rated player in the league to return, then Messrs Neilson (Nottingham) and Christiansen (Sheffield) might start having a few summer sleepless nights especially as Cardiff would still have room for two new forwards and two solid D men.
Am I getting carried away? Have Cardiff burnt their load already with the signings made? It's possible but I just don't think that Adams and Francis would have made the moves they have without thinking they could pull off the import signings needed through the summer months. They wouldn't have spent the money on Myers, they wouldn't have fought off the competition for Davies if it meant not being able to bring in difference makers, the match winners ahead of game one in September.
New signing Doyle was wanted by several clubs, a couple thought they had him as well. Doyle has an excellent pedigree and has impressed especially in his last three seasons with Fassa, three years that saw 90% plus saves percentages. Gerad Adams had different ideas. He landed his man. Maybe it's the prospect of playing in a new building in Cardiff in years ahead. Maybe this is the build-up to putting a championship side in the Devils new home in 2014-15.
Cardiff, Adams and Francis, Ragan and Pope, they are all giving the ball an almighty kick. They have confidence in their coaches, their team and their product. The Cardiff Devils made their reputation winning trophies, raising banners in front of SOLD OUT venues. Are those days heading back to the Valleys?