In Europe, the next week is national team break with some of the teams playing in the Champions Hockey League. Even with one game, SC Bern coach Kari Jalonen will be happy that there is a break in the schedule.
In Switzerland’s National League, SC Bern is currently not in the top eight teams who would gain a play-off spot in the spring. The last time Bern started so miserably into the new season was 2013. They were ranked ninth, and at the end of the season, they had to play for the first time ever in the play-outs. Even the firing of then-coach Annti Törmänen and the hiring of the new coaches Lars Leuenberger and Guy Boucher did not help. Is this scenario in this season also possible?
Even with Jalonen’s contract extension, there is no security for his job. In Bern, the coach is always on the hot seat if the results do not fit the club’s expectations. The fans of the Bears do not like to have the club in this level of trouble. They love to see them at the top of the standings.
SC Bern is Bayern Munich in Hockey
It is like in soccer with Bayern Munich. They need to be on the top of the German Bundesliga and can’t be on the bottom. That’s how Bears fans see their team and behave the same way. Bern needs to be the team to beat. And now one else. At the moment, as I said the Bears are ninth. And this is not only the coach’s fault. It is a mixture of injuries, the champion’s blues, over-satisfaction from the last four seasons in which the Bears won three Swiss Championships and also a new goalkeeper duo. Altogether, the situation is an explosive one.
It won’t come to any surprise if Jalonen would be replaced somewhere down the road. CEO Marc Lüthi will not hesitate to make that move. Even if the contract is still running, I would consider the move coming before the holiday break in December. If he had not strengthened the ship and got back in clear water.
The “Old Man” on Defense Is Clearly Missed
To make this happen he needs to be able to count on all players. With Beat Gerber, Jan Mursak, Daniele Grassi, André Heim and Inti Pestoni, five important players are out until mid or late December. Gerber (36) is a proven defender who can make the difference in some games.
As for the centers Mursak and Heim, the key elements to kill penalties (Heim) or to generate some chances in power play (Mursak) are missing. In the faceoff circle, Bern has clearly lacked without these two players. Too often they lose the draw because of that, and this generates too many scoring chances for the opponent. Both players are also missing in the defensive zone where the Bears are vulnerable.
As for Pestsoni, before he got injured, he found his place in the team and had four points in the last three games before he went down. With the foot injury, he will miss the next six to eight weeks. A hard loss for the Bears.
5 Players out Until Mid-December
Also, missing Grassi on the wing is a downside. He can use the body well and is important in the penalty killing. All of this is missing in the game of the Bears.
Jeremy Gerber is still a young defender and needs some time to adjust, but has little to no time on ice under Jalonen. But, realistically, he would be an asset to add.
With all those players out, Bern needed to find at least one player. And they did so. With Andri Spiller coming from the SC Rapperswil-Jona Lakers, they found a replacement. But he needs to get used to the Bears game and get to know the coach first before he can be a good replacement.
Another problem Bern faces is the sloppy play in goal. The team as a whole did not respond to the change there. They still play the same way as they did with Leonardo Genoni as the last man standing. This needs to be adjusted in the next week. Neither of the two keepers, Niklas Schlegel and Pascal Caminada, are true number ones. They both have problems with handling rebounds, secondary shooting and the quick transition from post to post. Too often they got beaten on those chances.
Relationship Status: It’s Complicated
But you can’t hang them out to dry for this. It is the defense that is not doing its job. It is the defense’s fault that the rebounds are not controlled. It is the defensemen’s fault that the secondary scoring chances are so good from the opponent. If you watch the game you will see that the defenders are too far away from the attacking players, giving them too much good ice and making bad decisions.
So, the Bears are facing many problems. Is there a quick solution? No, although in the long run there will be solutions.
The answer is that Jalonen has to find the proper line combinations to get his team back on track as well as fix the defensive issues. The next thing he needs to address is the goalie position. This means the team needs to work as one and not as individual players. If he can fix all these issues over the national team break, he may be able to survive the end of the season. If he can’t, it would be like your Facebook relationship status: it’s complicated.
Since 1977 in hockey. referee for 15 years, since 2000 journalist. I did cover over 10 WJC, 10 World Championships and 2 Olympics (2006 and 2010) I was born in Berne where my home town club is. SC Bern is, outside of the NHL, the club with the most spectators. Every year they have about 16`000 per game.