With the signings of Stevie Lyle and Greg Owen, the Basingstoke Bison have certainly hit the ground running with their prepartations for next season. New coach Doug Shepherd, who arrived from Slough earlier in the week, looks to be banishing the poor the season the Bison had last year. The starting signings certainly seem to signal that the Bison will be by a side capable of challenging for honours and depending on the import signings possible lifting the title.
The re-signing of Stevie Lyle will be a major boost in suring up a fragile defense. Lyle who joins from the Cardiff Devils after backstopping the Welsh capital side to the playoff final, is a major coup for the EPL side. Lyle had been hotly tipped to fill the vacant netminder post at the Sheffield Steelers as well as being linked with a number of other EIHL sides.
Meanwhile Greg Owen joins from the Coventry Blaze and shows the level of experience Shepherd is wanting in his new look Bison.
The Bison has seemingly stolen a march on the rest of the EPL with other clubs signings not yet having the same impact. Although Guildford has announced that Curtis Huppe will be returning themselves and last seasons runner up Manchester have been traditionally quiet on the signing front preferring to wait till later in the off season. The Bison’s signings caught many by surprise so much so that some had suggested the Bison may move into back into the Elite League.
Elsewhere Belfast has continued its recruitment drive by adding Mark Garside and GB international Davey Phillips both on 2 year deals. This is perhaps signalling a change in philosophy at the Giants as they look to build on a core squad to continue to be Elite League challengers instead of rebuilding virtually an entire squad most years. The Giants have also added British forward Matt Towe from Guildford.
With a lot of activity already completed this off season it could be a case that some clubs may come to regret some signings. Traditionally many clubs wait until the end of season when European and North American sides make their cuts but with high profile signings already made and taking up the budget there may be some clubs cutting their loin close with import signings come the August.