After this season, Lukas Fluler only watches ZSC from the stands.Image: Keystone
Can the ZSC Lions replace Lukas Fluler with a Swiss man? That’s the question that has haunted sporting director Sven Leuenberger since the resignation of his multiple championship goal.
The “Lugano Trap” embodies a very special form of overconfidence. The players on the field are so good and expensive that the management comes to the conclusion: A good goalkeeper is enough.
There are many good goalkeepers. But only greats become masters and these great masters are rare in their field. When Lukas Fluler hangs up his ice skates at the end of the season, we have – until a team other than Zug or Goteron become champions – only two Swiss Masters. Leonardo Genoni and Reto Bera. No one else played a significant role in any of the championship teams.
One of the reasons Lugano has never won a championship since 2006 was a goalkeeper. With only Elvis Merzlikins this was enough for at least two finals (2016, 2018). The Swiss licensed Latvian is now a dollar millionaire in the NHL. It can show how good he is.
But after the departure of master goalkeeper Ronnie Rueger, Lugano was not happy with Michael Flukiger, Simon Zuger, David Abischer, Daniel Manzato, Niklas Schlegel or Sandro Zurkirchen. And one of the mysteries of our hockey is why Lugano never tried – or rather: why Lugano didn’t make it – to sign Leonardo Genoni.
Perhaps the explanation lies in the past: “Grande Lugano” – with titles from 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990 still the measure of all things Ticino – was not shaped by great goals. But from a great coach (John Slatvoll), his strategy and key field players (like Matt Waltin, Kent Johansson, Jörg Eberle, Andy Ton, Sandro Bertgia or Kari Eloranta). To date, Lugano is the only championship team without a major last man since the start of the playoffs. A curiosity in our hockey history.
Grocers Coach: John Slatwall.Image: Keystone
Like the ZSC Lions “Grande Lugano” from next season? No, history will almost certainly not repeat itself. Lucas Flueller does not enjoy the reputation of Leonardo Genoni – another curiosity in history. He has given Zurich three titles. 2012, 2014 and 2018. Yes, in 2012 he “stole” the title from SCB in the 7th final in Bern (2: 1), as well as from HC Lugano in Lugano in 2018 (2: 0). As is the case with these two games, Leonardo Genoni never had to witch in Bern or Zug. In fact, Lukas Fluler cannot be replaced by the Swiss.
The ZSC Lions are well positioned in all “field positions” (defender, wing, center) for next season. Just like “Grande Lugano”. If no one makes changes to the NHL with an ongoing contract, sports director Sven Leuenberger may be satisfied with a few additional transfers and take the time to recruit good overseas personnel.
How does Sven Leuenberger solve the pill question?Image: Keystone
But that’s it: Lukas Fluler cannot be replaced by the Swiss goalkeeper. So the question is also: is goalkeeper Ludovic Weber the next Lukas Fluler? Lukas Fluler became an outstanding hero in 2012 at the age of 24. Ludovic Weber is 25 years old. The moment of truth is near for them.
Swap a Langnau goalkeeper with Lausanne?
If Ivars Punynovs moves to Lausanne, he has a good chance Luka Boltshauser will be able to move to Langnau despite an ongoing contract. “We have a lot of conversations,” says Mark Eichmann. This version has already been discussed.
The creator of the ZSC Lions, the legendary Simon Schenk, recognized in the spring of 1998 that only a great goalkeeper could make the ZSC Lions great. He signed Finland national goalkeeper Ari Sulander back in February 1998 – and the Zurich-based company credits the silent Finn with some unforgettable, perhaps never-ending, years of fame: the 2000, 2001 and 2008 titles, Champions Hockey. Victoria’s Cup (2009) by winning the league and defeating the Chicago Black Hawks.
The ZSC Lions team will be good enough to be champions when they enter the field (defenders, strikers) in the new hockey temple next summer. But if Ludovic Webber doesn’t become master goalkeeper in the spring of 2022, the Zurich-based company will need Ari Sulander next. It means: a foreign goalkeeper. A Swede, a Czech or a Finn who is good enough to be No. 1 on a World Cup squad. Or a North American who has been No. 1 in the NHL. Otherwise Sven Leuenberger will fall into the “Lugano Trap”.
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