How will history remember 2000s culture

The ZSC Lions are reminiscent of the SCB of the 2000s

The players in Zurich seem to have come to terms with the mediocrity quite well. The ZSC Lions have the talent, the money and the know-how to establish a master dynasty similar to that of the SCB. And so to win titles again.

Anyone who would have bet on a play-off final between EV Zug and Geneva / Servette last September should reap a substantial profit today. Even before the start of the season, Zug was one of the closest favorites, but no one expected Servette, at least in German-speaking Switzerland. The Lausanne HC, Friborg-Gottéron, the EHC Biel, the HC Lugano and above all the ZSC Lions started the championship with far greater credit.

Ultimately, however, the past few months have confirmed an old phrase that is more than just a phrase: championships are not won by the team with the best individualists, but rather by the team in which the players complement each other best on the ice. This is especially true for the ZSC Lions. In search of explanations for the disappointing end of the season, people in Zurich like to refer to the long list of injured people. But already at the end of February, when this list was much shorter, the Lions lost 2: 5 in the cup final to the tumbling SC Bern.

Measured against the financial outlay that the Lions put in, the results are mediocre at best. The last championship title in 2018, which they secured as seventh in the qualification, is an outlier in the midst of disappointing results. 2016: failed in the quarter-finals as qualifying winner 0: 4 at SCB. 2017: Second in the quarter-finals against Lugano. 2019: missed the play-offs as champions. A year ago, the coronavirus prevented the Lions from being able to prove that they had learned from past mistakes after successfully qualifying.

From a distance you can't get rid of the impression that the players in Zurich have come to terms with mediocrity. You wear the lion proudly on your chest. But besides that, people like to be cosmopolitan and urban. We know that life is not just about ice hockey. Lukas Flüeler became an involuntary symbolic figure for this. The three-time champion goalie was ousted as number 1 in goal by Ludovic Waeber this season and gave himself up without complaint in his new role as a well-paid spectator with the best view of the ice. There was not a word, and certainly not an act of resentment, to be heard from him.

Players like him may be conducive to the climate in a team; But they do not increase performance. In the series against Geneva / Servette, Sven Andrighetto, in particular, rebelled visibly and decisively against the impending end of the season. Others like Ryan Lasch, Denis Hollenstein or Simon Bodenmann bowed to the superior strength of Geneva or whatever they thought it was.

The ZSC Lions remember SC Bern in the second half of the 2000s. At that time, the SCB also gathered a group of highly talented individualists such as Christian Dubé, Sébastien Bordeleau, André Rötheli or Patrik Bärtschi, who danced through the qualification with ease, but also failed three times as qualifying winners in the quarter-finals in four years. The then head of sports drew the consequences from this and added a few not quite as talented, but all the more defiant ingredients to the talented team, such as Jean-Pierre Vigier, Brett McLean or Tristan Scherwey. Lo and behold: suddenly the SCB began to win in the play-offs. Ten years followed with five titles.

The then Bernese sports director was called Sven Leuenberger and now works in the same position for the ZSC Lions. Leuenberger's expertise and determination are beyond question. In Bern, he did not shy away from handing over his outstanding individualist Christian Dubé to his biggest rival, Friborg-Gottéron, on the basis of an ongoing contract. The decision caused a stir in the city. But as history shows, the courageous decision did not harm Bern's performance culture.

In Bern, Leuenberger's team had a wrong hierarchy at the time. Since the departure of Mathias Seger, none has been seen in Zurich. In a league like the National League, which is becoming more and more even and competitive, the lack of such an order is a handicap that decides whether to win or lose in close matches. The ZSC Lions have the talent, money and know-how to establish a master dynasty similar to that of the SCB. Now they still need one or the other uncomfortable player. Then titles would probably follow again.