Panthers Risking to Gain
The Nottingham Panthers have certainly set records this summer. There spending and squad size is more reminiscent of a rugby team than a British league side. There are mixed views on this approach and some will be uneasy and some will be delighted with it.
I have the standpoint that it is an understandable approach by the Panthers given their forthcoming European campaign. The Panthers will be playing some of the top teams in Europe with Lukko and Lulea as well the strong Hamburg Freezers. Whilst the Panthers squad would ordinarily be challenging for honours in the Elite League it is not a squad that could take on those sides and there are the added games and travel that will take its toll on the squad.
The Panthers clearly do not want to just make up the numbers either and are playing to the rules of the competition. There is another benefit of this. The 2015/16 CHL competition will have at least 1 less automatic qualification spot with the Continental Cup winner being given a spot. That puts Great Britainâ€™s spot already at risk with Panthers being the lowest seed in the competition. If the Panthers or another British side are to compete in future seasons they will need to prove their worth.
It is though a risky strategy. The Panthers are spending big and will need some big receipts to cover that and therein lays the issue. What happens if the Panthers cannot cover those big pay slips. It is not exactly the Panthers fault though as they are allowed to spend big by the lack of financial constraints or planning guidelines in place in the UK. However the Panthers have shown they can be profitable and can be fiscally responsible.
There is also the long running thought that it is not fair on the smaller budget sides for teams to carry spare imports. The Panthers will be able to play 12 imports in the EIHL but with 15 (including 2 import goaltenders) on the books any injuries should be easily covered. Injuries that other sides would not be able to cover.
The Panthers do need to be commended for their efforts with the CHL and look like a side that want to compete with the best and that is only a positive for the opinion of the EIHL outside of the UK. At the end of the day the Panthers have not broken any rules in their signings and can anyone say that they havenâ€™t done anything other top EIHL sides like Belfast or Sheffield have done or would do?