• Time for new blood

    From IIHF News@1:266/404 to All on Fri May 4 20:30:04 2018
    Although the French didn't make the quarter-finals last year, they didn't respond badly to the pressure of co-hosting the Worlds with Germany, finishing ninth.

    That run in Paris included highlights like beating Finland for the first time (5-1) and neighboring rival Switzerland (4-3). However, this French squad looks
    very different from the 2017 team, with

    longtime stars and go-to guys either retired or unavailable. They won't be in the spotlight this time. Still, unless some young prospects overachieve, coach Dave Henderson may need to think in

    terms of survival rather than a top-eight finish.


    There's no replacing Cristobal Huet, the legend who became the first Frenchman to hoist the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. He ended his international career last year after

    splitting duties in Paris with Florian Hardy, and the 42-year-old called it quits permanently after this season with Switzerland's Lausanne HC.

    So the 33-year-old Hardy, who is preparing to play at his sixth straight Worlds, will be under the microscope. He recorded a modest 2.85 GAA and 90.7 save percentage with Angers in the Ligue Magnus

    this season. His IIHF masterpiece remains his 28-save performance in a 2-1 upset win over Russia at the 2013 Worlds in Helsinki.

    Ronan Quemener, who split this season between Dornbirner EC and Bordeaux, will be looking for just his fourth career World Championship start at age 30. The 30-year-old last played at the 2016

    Worlds. Sebastian Ylonen, the half-Finnish 26-year-old son of two-time French Olympic goalie Petri Ylonen (1992, 1994), will be the third netminder after suiting up for three Finnish clubs this



    It's a curious paradox: for the last two seasons, France's best blueliner has also been one of its least-used players. After being a part-timer with the New Jersey organization in 2016-17, Yohann

    Auvitu played just 33 games with the Edmonton Oilers this season (3-6-9). But he will likely log big minutes in all situations here alongside towering 31-year-old journeyman Antonin Manavian

    (Fehervar AV19).

    Interestingly, the French will have a couple of former centres playing defence in veterans Kevin Hecquefeuille (IK Pantern) and Damien Raux (Gap). But realistically, they're not going to generate

    much offense from the back end. It'll be even more interesting to see what 20-year-old newcomers like Thomas Thiry, who suited up for EV Zug (three assists in 35 games), and Hugo Gallet, who's

    honing his skills with TPS Turku's junior system, can contribute in their debuts. Strong positional play is a must: the French can't afford to give up goals on silly errors.


    Every team wants to focus on the guys who are here, not the guys who aren't. But the elephant in the room (and we're not talking about the French children's
    classic Babar) is the absence of both

    Dallas Stars agitator and 2014 tournament all-star Antoine Roussel and Vegas Golden Knights forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

    That's a huge hole up front. It creates extra pressure for the duo of Damien Fleury, who split this season between Finland's Rauman Lukko and Germany's Schwenninger Wild Wings, and injury-plagued

    captain Stephane da Costa (Geneve-Servette) to produce goals. Fleury, entering his ninth Worlds at age 30, has shown clutch scoring ability over the years: he
    had three goals last year, and will

    have to be good again. Da Costa is well-removed from his KHL peak of 2014-15 (62 points with CSKA Moscow).

    The retirement of longtime captain Laurent Meunier will cost this team in terms
    of grit and leadership. Can Alexandre Texier (Kalpa Kuopio) show off his puckhandling abilities at this level after a

    respectable rookie season in Finland (13-9-22)? The forwards will undoubtedly put in a good effort, but will struggle against the speedier and more skilled Russians and Swedes.


    Three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and Dave Henderson behind the French bench. The 66-year-old Winnipeg native has helmed this team since 2004-05, and has managed to coax some

    wonderful surprises out of an unheralded roster, like the eighth-place showing in Minsk 2014.

    Esprit de corps? Joie de vivre? Oui! Much like a Canadian team, the French play
    hard at both ends of the ice under their longtime bench boss, and adding Meunier as an assistant coach just adds to

    that familiarity and continuity.

    Projected Results

    The French, who currently sit twelfth in the IIHF World Ranking, might be fortunate to finish twelfth at this tournament. Les Bleus take pride in never having been relegated since returning to the

    elite division in 2008 in Quebec City, but will have to do their very best this
    year to keep that streak alive. The must-win games in Group A will be against fellow underdogs Belarus and Austria.


    http://https://www.new-iihf.com/en/events/2018/wm/news/2240/time-for-new-blood --- SBBSecho 3.04-Win32
    * Origin: TequilaMockingbird Online - Toms River, NJ (1:266/404)