Daniel Sedlak (Briançon): « We have changed our recruitment process » | Magnus League – Ice Hockey

The Briançon Red Devils ended the 2021-2022 season in last place. We met in Briançon, Daniel Sedlak, extended as coach, and Christophe Lapointe, general manager. First part of this fascinating interview where it is mainly about the athlete and recruitment.

A quick look back at the last 2021-2022 season where, despite serious progress, Briançon finished bottom of the Ligue Magnus for the third consecutive time. What is your analysis? What did he miss to avoid the last place?

Daniel Sedlak (DS): The first thing for me is that we lacked team depth because we really had a lot of injuries. Afterwards, we are limited with our budget. But many of the players who played for us last year really brought a lot of different things sportingly compared to the last two seasons. Unfortunately, 7 fractures really impacted us. We accelerated at Christmas except that the same, just after, the injuries continued. We really lacked bench depth.

Daniel, you have been extended for this 2022-2023 season and you will be starting your second season as head coach in Magnus, what personal feedback are you making on your first season in this role?

DS: My first objective was to bring the locker room together really well. Because we have seen in recent periods that the locker room was a bit lost. Sportingly, the locker room has worked really well this season. On the ice, we have completely changed the system to play much more offensively in a Briançon style. There were 2-3 games where we missed out but I’m very happy with our presentation in the game.

Christophe, the club has chosen to extend Daniel Sedlak. What is the club’s assessment of this first season of collaboration?

Christophe Lapointe (CL): Regarding his extension, the club and the shareholders saw in him the fact that it changed a lot of things in the locker room and on the ice. People are unhappy with the result, at the club we are also unhappy with the results and the last place. But during the first two seasons in Magnus we heard « there is no game background, it’s not pretty to see » while today, and despite the defeats that are still there, we now hear people say “there is a real background, it starts from behind, it plays offensively”. We also realized that changing coaches every year wasn’t much use because we’ve been changing coaches for 3 years and ending up in the same position for 3 years. We wanted there to be stability.

Already because it allows to keep players. Today the goal is to keep as many players as possible. We know very well that we will not keep them all, because already Daniel does not want to keep everyone, and some have had opportunities to look elsewhere.

I was asked for my opinion and I simply said that if we had had a little more luck and certainly a lot fewer injuries, we wouldn’t be in this place. We were satisfied with Daniel Sedlak and the Chairman said so (Editor’s note: Dauphiné Libéré of June 2, 2022), we all made mistakes, us, him, the shareholders. But we also have the right to give a second chance to someone who gives satisfaction on the work he has provided in general.

Last season brought to light several major shortcomings, in particular the depth of the bench, the lack of offensive realism, the difficulty of completing the end of matches (many points lost at the end of the match). What was the recruitment focus on?

DS: Many French people have already left. Because a club like Briançon gives them a lot of ice time and so many have progressed. Keeping French people like Colomban, Ruel or Torres is difficult, because the other Magnus clubs offer extra things that we cannot offer.

For next season, we have changed the recruitment « process » because we have lost some big French people. Replacing Ruel, Colomban, Schmitt, Torres is not easy. We don’t have that ability so we tried to bring in bigger foreigners to get a lot of minutes on the ice. Last season the 4 lines rotated and were homogeneous. This year I will try to recruit 3 stronger lines with a younger fourth line and work with them to progress and of course participate but the ice time will obviously be less.

So it comes down to an entirely foreign offensive Top 6 and a « bottom-6 » rather JFL?

DS: It’s true because the JFL are really complicated to recruit here because, as I said, because the big clubs don’t have the same limits as us. I’m very happy for foreigners because I know a little bit and it’s a good example to draw young people. Of course foreigners will bring us a lot of experience and help us to get better results than last season.

Is it complicated to attract good JFLs to Briançon and what are the sporting and financial issues for Briançon?

CL: I wouldn’t even say that it’s complicated to attract good JFLs to Briançon, it’s complicated to attract JFLs to Briançon period. The problem is there. Now I think it’s the same everywhere. As Daniel said, there are 4 big players leaving for 4 different reasons. The first (Colomban) wants to relive what he experienced in Finland, we can’t blame him for going to Finland. The second (Ruel) had been there for 4 years in Briançon, going from D2 to a good Magnus level, it is logical that he is leaving. The third (Torres) is a family affair, so he did not want to stay. There is only the fourth (Schmitt) of whom we do not really understand why he is going to a club of the same level as us (Anglet). We will have to replace these 4 players.

Last year we had JFLs on the second row and even the first. Well, this season, we certainly won’t have one. The goal is to recruit players who will be good for the first and second line and we will have our third line which, for me, will be a good third line with experience and in particular a Sacha Guillemain who has given satisfaction to the United States. United then a good stint in Nice and in Dunkirk, a Frenchman who scores 15 points even in D1 was not bad. We are going to fight with young French people to make them perform. Of course we won’t have French tops and we are aware of that. We have to deal with it unfortunately. We are going to do “training” and Daniel has at least the advantage of having worked a lot with young people in the past. And let’s not forget that those who leave are those who had the most ice time last year and it is also thanks to Daniel. We know very well that Briançon is a springboard. Les Bernier, Terglav, Szelig, guys like that who stayed 5, 6, 7 years in Briançon there will be no more. So yes, there is Kevin Igier who will probably stay until the end of his career and who is attached to Briançon but there are not 50,000 like that. And young people, you have to understand that their career is short and that if they have the opportunity to go elsewhere, they go there and it’s good for them and it also proves that we did our job even if we would like to keep them.

When we see the good JFL contingents preparing in Nice or Anglet, are you worried about Briançon’s chances of doing well? Do you have any regrets?

CL: Regrets, we will always have a little, after we have done our work for the players and executives that Daniel and I have contacted. Once the sporting plan has been laid out, unfortunately we are not in their head. Today it’s not just the player either. There is the family and I can understand that there is someone who prefers to go to Anglet because he does not like the mountains and he prefers the sea. From there, on the players contacted, because we actually contacted a whole lot of them, almost all of them go to the Magnus clubs… Financially, I don’t think we’re below the others. On the big players we wanted for a second row, I don’t think we were much below the others.

Afterwards, there is the reality of things, Briançon is not easy either, it is 3 months of snow and a cold temperature in winter. In terms of infrastructure, apart from large structures like Rouen, Grenoble, Angers, Amiens, Cergy, we have nothing to envy to the others. We are no less good than the others. When you see the infrastructure, the ice rink, the locker room, there are of course things to improve, but that’s perfectly fine. We didn’t have a material manager this year because unfortunately our material manager left us in October and I took over. Next year the equipment manager we have it. A physical trainer, we also have it. We have a staff of 3 physiotherapists, we have doctors, we will have someone who will do acupuncture who joins the medical staff. We will never be like the big structures, that’s obvious.

Do the sporting results of the last 3 seasons weigh heavily in the balance in terms of recruitment?

CL: It will always be hard to get people to come. If it plays a lot, we were never made to feel it in any case.

DS: Today it is above all the player who is looking for a quality of life. That’s all because you offer a role in the first or second line but other teams too. Me since 2001 I play in France and in Magnus, I always preferred the mountain to the sea but everyone is different.

That’s why the players who don’t come here put aside the sportsman and are not close to the mountains. There are many projects, especially for the ice rink which will evolve next year and perhaps these new things will appeal to more players looking for comfort. Even this year, the players who have left us are for sporting, family and financial reasons. I respect their choice and each player is responsible for his career. But it is sure that replacing the players who have left is really difficult.

For 3 seasons, very few foreigners have had the expected level. What changes are coming for this new season?

DS: I no longer look in the same categories abroad as last year because we need to recruit players with CVs, with more experience, and who have reached the highest level than the Magnus; at the European level. Because we did not recruit players like that last season. Last year we had only 3-4 foreigners out of 10 Magnus level. I was careful and tried to really recruit players who, before arriving in Briançon, played at the highest level.

The second part of this interview will be published at the end of June / beginning of July. She will discuss finances, club structure, medical and the ice rink.

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