Lausanne HC, which remains on an elimination in the quarter-finals against Fribourg-Gottéron (4-1), must do better in 2022/23. RTSsport.ch met the coach of the Malley club, John Fust.
While Lausanne HC has been a contender for the title for several seasons, its record remains hopelessly blank. Will the long-awaited coronation by the loyal supporters of the Vaudois club finally take place this year?
On paper, the LHC has the means to match its ambitions. But a dozen other National League teams can say the same…
For his second season at the helm of the Lions, John Fust (50) could be the man for the job. Wasn’t the Montrealer with St. Gallen roots named Coach of the Year in 2011, when he took Langnau to the playoffs for the first time in Tigers history?
Our transfers aimed to improve our power-play
RTSsport.ch: The whole league has gone from strength to strength, 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 the favorite, since it remains on 2 titles. But then, for ranks 2-9, it is indeed really open.
RTSsport.ch: The LHC having invested a lot of money in recent years, the ambitions are high.
JOHN FUST: Yes, and this as much in the media as among the supporters. It is up to us to meet their expectations. We are aiming for the title, yes, like everyone else. But to achieve this goal, you have to go step by step. To become champion, Zug set itself a course which lasted 6-7 years. The last 2 seasons, success has not fallen from the sky to them.
RTSsport.ch: You said you learned the lessons of the past. Which?
JOHN FUST: Last season, the special teams clearly cost us the quarter-final series against Fribourg-Gottéron. While modifying small things on the tactical level, we therefore made transfers to correct this. Daniel Audette and Robin Kovacs have had success in power-play in all the leagues in which they have played. We should see the value of these 2 forwards in this area.
Raffl is a hard worker and a leader
RTSsport.ch: You mentioned Canadian Audette and Swedish Kovacs. But the flashiest name among the new arrivals at the LHC is certainly Austrian striker Michael Raffl (ex-Dallas), currently injured.
JOHN FUST: During each recruitment, we research 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 he clearly has the potential to help us.
RTSsport.ch: On the goalkeeper side, your duo may seem light. Tobias Stephan (38) is no longer very young, and the Latvian with a Swiss license Ivars Punnenovs has never played in a posh formation.
JOHN FUST: We are happy with our porters, who both have the makings 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 the difference in the National League.
The national team can take advantage of the change to 6 foreigners
RTSsport.ch: Each team can now field 6 foreigners on the ice, instead of 4. What consequence will this change have for 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 blocks. To survive and to have playing time, you will have to be better: some young people will probably not have their chance. As in Germany, it is the best who will break through. The national team can take advantage of this.
RTSsport.ch: Precisely, in Germany, DEL clubs have been evolving with many foreigners for a long time, without this preventing the emergence of local talents. Is a transition to 8 or 10 foreigners therefore possible in the National League?
JOHN FUST: It will already be necessary to analyze the results of the transition to 6 foreigners. In Germany, the level had initially dropped, because it had required a big adaptation. It is up to us, coaches, sports directors and managers, to talk to each other and make the best decisions for Swiss hockey.
Interview by Michaël Taillard / Videos by Miguel Bao