Lausanne HC, still eliminated in the quarter-finals against Fribourg-Gottéron (4-1), must do better in 2022/23. RTSsport.ch met Malley club coach John Fust.
Although Lausanne HC has been a title contender for several seasons, their record remains hopelessly blank. Will the long-awaited coronation by the loyal fans of the vaudois club finally take place this year?
On paper, the LHC has the means to fulfill its ambitions. But a dozen National League teams can say the same…
For his second season in charge of the Lions, John Fust (50) could be the man for the job. The native Montrealer from St. Wasn’t Gallen named Coach of the Year in 2011 when he led Langnau to the playoffs for the first time in Tigers history?
Our transfers were aimed at improving our power play
RTSsport.ch: The whole league has been growing, with many foreigners leaving the KHL. Under these conditions, it is difficult to make predictions for this qualifying phase.
JOHN FUST: Zug deserves to be cited as a favorite as it holds on to 2 titles. But then, for ranks 2-9, it’s really wide open.
RTSsport.ch: The LHC, having invested a lot of money in recent years, ambitions are high.
JOHN FUST: Yes, both in the media and among the fans. It is up to us to meet your expectations. We aim for the title, yes, like everyone else. But to achieve this goal, you need to go step by step. To become a champion, Zug set a course that lasted 6-7 years. The last 2 seasons, success has not fallen from the sky.
RTSsport.ch: You said you learned the lessons of the past. Which one?
JOHN FUST: Last season, special teams clearly cost us the quarterfinal series against Fribourg-Gottéron. While we tweaked small things on a tactical level, we made transfers to correct it. Daniel Audette and Robin Kovacs have been successful on the power play in every league in which they have played. We should see the value of these 2 strikers in this area.
Raffl is a hard worker and a leader
RTSsport.ch: You mentioned the Canadian Audette and the Swedish Kovacs. But the most striking name among the newcomers to the LHC is undoubtedly Austrian forward Michael Raffl (ex-Dallas), currently injured.
JOHN FUST: During each recruitment, we investigate the character of the player. He is a good person, but also a very experienced worker and leader. After spending so many years in the NHL, Raffl has to adapt to the Swiss game. But of course it has the potential to help us.
RTSsport.ch: On the goalie side, your duo may look light. Tobias Stephan (38) is not very young anymore, and Swiss-licensed Latvian Ivars Punnenovs (ex-Rapperswil and Langnau) has never played in a classy formation.
JOHN FUST: We are happy with our goalkeepers, who both have the quality of a number one. They will have to deliver the goods, that’s for sure. We will see if in the end we were right not to hire a foreign goalkeeper. But it must be said that over the last 15 seasons no imported goalkeeper has made a difference in the National League.
The selection can take advantage of the change to 6 foreigners
RTSsport.ch: Each team can now present 6 foreigners on the ice, instead of 4. What consequences will this change have for the Swiss players?
JOHN FUST: In reality, no one knows what the impact of this increase will be. In the short term, this should improve the level of Swiss players in the 3rd and 4th block. To survive and get playing time, you’ll have to be better – some youngsters probably won’t get their chance. As in Germany, it is the best who will break. The selection can take advantage of it.
RTSsport.ch: Precisely, in Germany, DEL clubs have evolved with many foreigners for a long time, without this preventing the emergence of local talents. So is a transition to 8 or 10 foreigners in the National League possible?
JOHN FUST: It will be necessary to analyze the results of the transition to 6 foreigners. In Germany, the level had initially dropped, because it had required a great deal of adaptation. It is up to us, coaches, sporting directors and managers, to talk to each other and make the best decisions for Swiss hockey.
Interview by Michaël Taillard / Videos by Miguel Bao