Asia League 2008-09 Season Preview
Posted by simon c on 2008 September 18日 Thursday
Seibu Prince Rabbits (JPN)
07-08: 20-1-9 (61 pts) Lost in playoff semifinals to Cranes
In: Tomohito Okubo (from High1)
Out: Chris Yule (to Cranes)
The regular season champs from last season has added a power play quarterback in the offensive defenceman Okubo (5G+28A=33P), but let go of point getter Yule (10+25=35, tied for 5th in AL in points) who promptly made a move up north. The team went on a 6 game 11 day training camp to Bayern, Germany a month ago (where they went 1-5) and has been training since early summer. The core of the team is the same, and Okubo-Yule swap might have been made to bring up younger forwards as it is an ageing team. Look for another solid season from the bunnies, and they’ll be hungry to bring the trophy back down to Honshu from Hokkaido where its been for the past two seasons.
07-08: 19-1-10 (58 pts) Lost in playoff semifinals to Oji
Out: Tomohito Okubo (to Seibu), Steve McKenna (to Sharks)
The team has been steadily getting better in its three seasons in the league (7th => 4th => 2nd), but with the league going to a balanced schedule this season, High1 will not have more chances to beat up on the weak Chinese side (who may not be rollovers this season anyways). It will be interesting to see how imports who played in various European leagues last season will fare, and last season’s AL scoring champ Korean-American Alex Kim (23+28=51) is back to power the offence.
07-08: 18-2-10 (57 pts) PLAYOFF CHAMPION!
The championship club finally did the sensible thing and officially named the team the Eagles. That was the original name of the club when it was established in 1925, and the eagle has been featured on its jersey and used as a mascot for a long time. The team is going with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” for this season, as all the main players are back, including its imports Shane Endicott (13+22=35) and Ricard Persson (11+17=28). Goalie Masahito Haruna was absolutely brilliant (92.8 save %, 1.89GAA) in Oji’s 9-0 playoff run, and he may have to do the same again to repeat as champions.
Nippon Paper Cranes (JPN)
07-08: 16-2-12 (50 pts) Lost in playoff finals
Out: Ryan Haruo Kuwabara (to High1), Jamie McLennan, Tyson Nash
The 06-07 champs slipped out of the gate last season as the club went with cheap imports with no big league experience while losing sniper Nishiwaki who was second in team in goals with 24 the previous season. The team righted its ship midseason with the acquisition of veterans Tyson Nash and Jamie McLennan and made their way to the finals. The front office made sure to reinforce the team with veteran imports from the start this season with veterans who played capably in the Austrian league last season, and has had cups of coffee in the NHL. And it will be interesting to see how much Nishiwaki has grown in his season in North America, and how goalie Ishikawa will handle a whole season. This team will definitely be a force to be reckoned with this upcoming season. “Noodles” McLennan’s skates will be big ones to fill for the goalies though.
07-08: 14-2-14 (44 pts) Lost in playoff quarterfinals to Cranes
Halla has been disppointing observers as the team has been unable to crack the top four in the standings the past two seasons. This may not have been a coincidence from losing Song Dong-Hwan to Korea’s mandatory military service for those two seasons, he’s back and all ready to go as he scored a goal and an assist in his first game back in the preseason Anyang Cup game. And as always, new imports will play a big role. Leading scorer Patrik Martinec (7+29=36, 4th in league) is the only returning foreigner.
07-08: 10-2-18 (30 pts) Lost in playoff quarterfinals to Oji
Out: Kevin Kimura (back to Canada)
The perpetually cash-strapped team seems to have acquired a rather rich sponsor in Tobu Railways, let’s hope this is a long-term working relationship. Maybe because of this, the club is able to afford imports this season (last year’s team was importless for financial reasons). Though, the imports are the type of small players that other teams overlook coming from Div III US college hockey and via France and Australia (not Austria), but these types of unusual signings are not unusual for the Bucks who have signed a former Japanese inline national team member before. A 6th place finish will not be enough to make the playoffs this season as there will only the top five teams will make the playoffs (with 4th v 5th best of three play-in being the first round), so let’s hope the imports skills translate well to the Asian game.
07-08: 3-0-27 (10 pts) Didn’t make playoffs
The perpetually bottomdwelling Chinese look to make some noise this season. Last season, the team had a last minute management change and the new China Sharks GM Chris Collins didn’t have enough time to put together a solid team (and midseason goalie reinforcement Kelly Guard left China only after two games). But with plenty of time to prepare this season, the team is bringing on NHL and AL veteran McKenna and NHL veteran (with respectable AHL numbers in recent years) Flaherty as a playing coaches. Harvard grad Kevin Du is apparently given a spot on the team until the end of the calendar year as a special ethnic player (his father is Chinese), a somewhat strange but interesting arrangement that will hopefully be fruitful. Flaherty will undoubtedly keep the team in many, many games where they have no business having a chance to win, so this should definitely be the most interesting year for a Chinese team.
This season, the top five teams will make the playoffs, with the 4th and 5th place teams playing a best of three play-in to earn the right to play the 1st place team.