Having won three DEL titles between 1997-99 and then another in 2001, the Mannheim Adler have made use of their savvy international connections, broad fan-base and investment in talented German players to establish themselves as Germany’s most respected team in both domestic and international circles. Mannheim is also the first team to have developed a so-called hockey internat, a boarding school hosting the players who suit up for Mannheim’s junior team, which has dominated the junior circuit in Germany since its inception several years ago.
Coming into this season, the Adler are once again the team most experts are picking to win the DEL championship, especially after the addition of NHLers Jochen Hecht, Cristobal Huet, Sven Butenschon and Andy Delmore. However, the team has once again made room for a number of younger players straight out of their junior team who should benefit greatly from the presence of such players for as long as the lockout continues.
Adler media representative Matthias Fries talked to Hockey’s Future about the past season, the upcoming season, German talent on his club and German prospects in general.
HF: This past DEL (Deutsche Eishockey Liga) season was considered by many to be the most successful in the ten-year history of the league. Were you satisfied with your team’s 2003-04 season and the role your team played in the league in this very solid 10th season?
MF: Not necessarily. There were many unnecessary disputes last season that placed the on-ice events in the background. We were all but happy with the loss in the playoff quarterfinal. On the other hand, we’re convinced we learned from last season and already during the season we were able to set up the foundation for a successful 2004-05 season.
HF: On paper, the upcoming season appears to be as promising as the last, if not better. No less than NHLers Jochen Hecht, Marco Sturm, Mike York, Andy MacDonald, Nick Schultz, Jim Dowd and Sven Butenschon have signed on with DEL clubs during the lockout. In addition, players such as Andy Delmore, Mike Green, Derrick Walser, Daniel Corso and Pascal Trepanier are coming straight out of the NHL (albeit, from limited roles) into the DEL irregardless of the lockout. What do you think players of this caliber are going to mean for the 2004-05 DEL season?
MF: These players are only going to improve the skill level of the league which is already at a high level as it is. With their capabilities, they’ll be able to positively pick up the pace of play of other players and thus, that of the entire league.
HF: How would you sum up your team’s chances of success in this DEL season?
MF: After the poor outing last season, we must make sure this season that we once again establish ourselves as one of the top 4 teams in the league. That is the goal we’re starting with going into the regular season. We’ll just have to see what then happens in the playoffs – the regular season is pretty long in and of itself, and we have to get through that first. The success is always dependent upon many factors. Will the team structure prove right? Can we avoid major injuries? Etc.
HF: Which young German player, if any, made the largest leap forward in his development for your team last season?
MF: Center Christoph Ullmann (21).
HF: Which German player do you see making the greatest leap forward in development in this upcoming season?
MF: Wingers Markus Kink (19) and Fabio Carciola (19).
HF: Were you surprised that other than goalie Thomas Greiss, no other German was taken in the 2004 NHL Draft?
MF: No, we were not surprised. In the past few years there have been several German players drafted. Some have made the jump across the pond successfully. However, this quota cannot be met every year. This is not a bad thing though. It doesn’t negate from the fact that the DEL is going in the right direction in its development.
HF: Do you believe that there is a young German player in your organization who’ll one day make it to the NHL or who has perhaps been unjustly ignored by NHL scouts?
MF: Based solely on talent, surely several could make it. However, there are many factors that play a role in a player making it to the NHL.
HF: Marco Sturm and Jochen Hecht are currently the bright stars among German-born and raised hockey players. In addition, youngsters Dennis Seidenberg, Marcel Goc and Christian Erhoff are apparently on the threshold of becoming regulars in the NHL. In your opinion, which German players currently in the DEL could also be playing in the NHL?
MF: Defenseman Mirko Ludemann from the Cologne Sharks, for example.
HF: Do you currently see any young exceptional talents in any DEL organization who you believe will one day have the same type of success in the NHL that Sturm and Hecht have had?
MF: Players such as Marco Sturm or Jochen Hecht don’t grow on trees. They are exceptions to the rule and such players only come around every once in a while. In this respect, it’s very hard to say at this point if any particular young player at this time has left the impression that he’ll be playing in the NHL in ten years.
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