Season 8 profile: Bratislava Eagles

pro Bratislava

Team owner: Juraj Dluhy, CEO, Cestné a Stavebné Mechanizmy Tisovec (a military equipment manufacturer in Detva, Slovakia.)

Farm club: Vienna (Austria) Capitals Vienna Caps

GM: Chuck Massaro (only GM in team’s history)

Coach: Lindy Ruff (replaced Brent Sutter after Season 6, who replaced Bruce Boudreau after Season 3)

Last season: 3rd overall (In playoffs, defeated Munich, then Milan, then lost to Lisbon)

Ins and Outs (Season 7 to Season 8)

Out: Wei Yang Zhang (free agent), Brent Burns (free agent), Patrick Wiercioch (free agent), Andreas Jamtin (free agent), Dany Heatley (free agent)

In: Brett Connolly (free agent), Chris Butler (free agent), Mike Matheson (draft), Kevin Labanc (draft), Kole Lind (draft), Josh Norris  (draft)

In Place

(Key players signed past Season 8)

Milan Gulas, C; Zemgus Girgensons, LW; Tyler Toffoli, RW; Michael Stone, D; Connor Hellebuyck, G3qs

Three Questions

1. Who expected Bratislava to finish 3rd overall? Not one person. Really. Not one. The team got on an early roll under Coach Lindy Ruff, started believing in themselves, and kept on winning in Season 7, finishing first in the Southern Conference and the Eagles kept going until Lisbon HC knocked them out in the conference finals. Really, no one expected that kind of performance. The Eagles played very well in all aspects of the game under Ruff. The additions of Alexander Ovechkin and Brent Burns – who both came to Slovakia in trades before the start of the season – really gave the offense a lift and made the powerplay the most deadly in the whole league, scoring 23.7 percent of the time. The offense was also second in the league to Belfast in shots on goal, thanks mainly to the line of Jonathan Toews, Tyler Ennis and Ovechkin. And they excelled in their own end like no one else, permitting the fewest shots on goal in the league. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury defied his critics by posting his best stats ever at age 33. Under Coach Ruff, who won the EURO Cup with Minsk in Season 6, the Eagles had a dream season going until Lisbon rudely woke them.

2. Will they be a Cup contender again? Bratislava lost many pieces in the economic crisis and they should not be considered a Cup favorite in Season 8, and it appears this season might be their last decent shot at it. But Lisbon proved last season that even a 6th seed in the playoffs can challenge for the big prize. Math and finances did more than anything else to demolish the Bratislava team. General Manager Chuck Massaro, faced with hefty salary requests from his many free agents, chose to let Wei Yang Zhang, Brent Burns, defenseman Patrick Wiercioch and winger Andreas Jamtin – all starters in Season 7 – walk away to find the money they sought. Signing Jonathan Toews became top priority and the star center re-upped for another season and a player option at $8.1 million. Under-rated center Milan Gulas was also seen as a necessary signing ($5.5 million) for the team. Then Tyler Ennis took the team to arbitration and a $6.15 million payout. The cap squeeze also meant some other starters had to be sent to the farm club in Vienna because they wouldn’t fit under the cap. Marcel Hossa and Shawn Matthias will have to wait for injuries if they want to skate again in Bratislava. Cheaper players are filling roster holes to give the lineup a whole new look, and not one that Eagles fans prefer, by the way. Five forwards and one defenseman who were supposed to be spending the year in Vienna this year are in the starting lineup of the big club. And Zemgus Girgensons should not be a second-line player at this point in his career, but he is. If Bratislava hopes to make the playoffs for the 8th straight season and then challenge for the Cup, then a couple of the youngsters will have to exceed expectations, Toews will have to be Matt Duchene-like,  and Fleury will have to maintain his Season 7 form. Coach Ruff has his work cut out for him.

3. What positions are their shakiest? Bratislava proved last year they have a top blueline corps. Make that had a top blueline corps. This season, the parts of Brent Burns and Patrick Wiercioch are being played by rookies Michael Matheson and Mark Barberio. The third defense duo will be a prime area of concern. But more of a concern are the team’s forward lines that are suddenly very shallow in terms of talent. Last season, all lines contributed and in fact, 11 of the 12 forwards scored 10 goals or more. That’s depth. This season, take a look at the bottom six and you will see that three of the six players have never played a game in the EURO League, one played 1 game, and a fifth forward played 7. Veteran Martin Hanzal will center the third line and will be asked to be a player-coach of sorts because his linemates will have no experience.

History

Season                 Place        PTS        PP %      PK %      SPG        SAPG     GPG     GAPG    PIM

Season 7               3           114      23.7      84.8           34.71      24.73     3.66     2.63       8.32

Season 6              13          88        17.9       81.5          30.70      27.52    3.20       3.13           9.20

Season 5                9         95         16.7         83.2        31.48     27.62     3.33        3.11              8.54

Season 4              11          93         17.3         77.1       33.94     27.01     3.71        3.50                11.93

Season 3              11          91          15.4        83.8        30.82     26.94     3.51        3.35                11.12

Season 2              6          101         18.3        82.7        31.43     26.76     3.57        3.28                11.67

Season 1              8          95          16.4        81.0        30.17     29.01     3.45        3.22                9.22

Top Draft picks

Season 1: Jonathan Toews, C, current age 30. Games played: 539; points: 636; +90

Season 2: Milan Gulas, C, age 30. GP 471, Pts 286, +76

Season 3: Michael Stone, D, age 27. GP 255, Pts 68, +35

Season 4: Zemgus Girgensens, C, age 23.  GP 171, Pts 57, +17

Season 5: Morten Madsen, C, age 25. GP 12, Pts 3, -4

Season 6: Dylan Strome, C, age 20.

Season 7: Connor Hellebuyck, G, age 23. GP 8, save pct. 89.7

Season 8: Mike Matheson, D, age 22.

Trade History

Season 1 (picks without years listed are from initial draft)

Traded Round 5 pick (used to draft Kimo Timonen) to Bern for Round 8 pick (Martin Erat) 2013 Round 1 (Weiyang Zhang) and 2013 Round 2 pick (Leonardo Genoni)

Traded Round 8 pick (David Desharnais) and Round 19 pick (Greg Zanon) to Geneva for Round 17 pick (Tomas Kopecky) and 2014 Round 1 pick (Michael Stone)

Traded 2013 Round 2 pick (Oleg Podyedonostsev) to Milan for Round 20 pick (David Steckel)

Traded David Steckel to Edinburgh for Round 21 pick (David Moss)

Season 2

Traded Lee Stempniak and 2014 Rd 3 (Steve Olesky) to Paris for Philip Larsen

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

Traded 2016 Round 1 pick (Bud Holloway) to Geneva for Chris Kunitz and 2016 Round 1 pick (later traded to Copenhagen – Simon Hjalmarsson)

Traded 2016 Round 1 pick (Simon Hjalmarsson) to Copenhagen for Matt Frattin and 2016 Round 1 pick (Morten Madsen)

Traded 2017 Round 3 pick (Julius Nattinen) to Belfast for 2016 Round 3 pick (Evgeny Solomonov)

Traded 2017 Round 2 (Daniel Sprong) pick to Copenhagen for Troy Brouwer

After Season 5 started

Signed Marek Daloga (free agent)

Season 6

Traded Luke Adam to Stockholm for Karl Alzner

Traded 2018 Round 3 pick to Milan for 2017 Round 3 Pick (Brendan Guhle)

After Season 6 started:

Traded Mark Pysyk to Stockholm for Simon Despres

Season 7

Traded Siim Liivik to Berlin for Leon Draisaitl

Traded Karl Alzner and Anthony Mantha to St. Petersburg for Brent Burns

Traded Teuvo Teravainen, Dylan Strome, Leon Draisaitl and 2020 Round 1 pick to Dublin for Alexander Ovechkin

After season started: Traded Dante Fabbro and Simon Despres to Berlin for Josh Gorges and 2019 Round 3 pick (Kole Lind)

Bought out contract of Corey Crawford

Season 8

 

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