Robinson back "to turn things around"
Genting Casino Coventry Blaze forward Brett Robinson is hoping for third time lucky after his first two seasons with the club ended in different forms of disappointment.
In his debut year, following a goal and assist in a dominant win over the Cardiff Devils in the semi-finals, the Blaze’s top points and goal-scorer looked in good shape to lead his team to a back-to-back Playoff title. But then, in the second shift of the final against the Nottingham Panthers, a team who Robinson had enjoyed much personal success against, a simple play lead to disaster. “I chipped the puck behind the net and braced myself against the boards for the hit,” explained the Canadian this time last summer. “It came in an awkward way and I was sandwiched. The hit separated my shoulder right on my A/C joint. It was devastating.”
“It was the toughest thing I’ve had to do. Not being able to help nearly killed me,” continued Robinson as he was forced to watch on as Blaze fell to a 2-0 final defeat.
Named Coach’s Player of the year by Chuck Weber with an impressive 26 goals, 40 assists for 66 points in 69 Elite League competition games, the centreman spent last summer recuperating.
Expecting to return for the 2016/17 season healthy, adjusted to the Elite League and with a core group of players returning around him, the Ontario native looked to get off to a quicker start than the self-admitted “slow” one previous.
However, unexpected complications with the shoulder injury throughout the summer and into late August meant a further struggle for the Blaze number 23.
“He was nowhere near ready health wise and there were times when he shouldn’t have been playing,” explained Danny Stewart who took over the Blaze coaching role following Chuck Weber’s departure. “But, credit to Brett he battled through that and turned it up the second half of the year.”
Whilst T.J. Syner and Barry Almeida helped turn Blaze’s offensive problems around last season, earning rave reviews along the way, with his health fully restored, Robinson quietly went about his business, impressively out-scoring the American pair.
Sadly though, despite his 49 points, Robinson was to suffer playoff heartache again, this time missing out on the post-season for the first time in a career which has stretched across more than 280 ECHL regular season games and near 60 in the Kelly Cup, which he won with Cincinnati Cyclones in 2010.
“Obviously no one was happy with how our season went last year,” expressed the 32-year-old.
“No one is more disappointed or hard on themselves than the players and I fit right into that category.”
“I was proud to lead the team in points, but I was extremely disappointed with my season last year. I know I can improve my overall game and also contribute on the scoreboard.”
With his first child expected in the coming months and a new contract with what looks set to be an almost brand new Blaze team signed, Brett is choosing to look forward now rather than backwards.
“I'm coming back to turn things around as a team and personally. This time I'm having an off-season with no injuries and I'm able to work out and skate with no restrictions un-like last year and so I hope to be able to hit the ground running this year!”
Robinson joins Jordan Pietrus, David Clements, Ross Venus and Kevin Noble as a returnee on the Blaze roster. He’ll be joined by Ryan Dingle, Luke Ferrara and Dax Lauwers as Danny Stewart looks to re-build his side ahead of the 2017/18 season.
“One of the main reason for returning this year is that Coach Stewart is at the helm,” said Brett. “As players we love playing for him. He is a true players coach and works so well with us. I have total faith in what Danny is working towards this off-season and for next year. He's a guy that if you work hard and buy-in to the team concept, we will be successful and that's the type of players this team will win with."
The Elite League will look a little different on Robinson’s return, with Blaze moving out of a conference in which the forward had success in, sitting 2nd and 11th for Erhardt points in his two years. Instead, Coventry will join Manchester and re-new old rivalries with Milton Keynes and Guildford, a challenge Brett is looking forward to.
“I’m excited to compete against the two new teams and I think the fans will enjoy seeing Milton Keynes and Guildford back at the Skydome. I’ve heard about the old times and hope our fans will enjoy the new structure and variation we’ll see next season.”
Speaking of the fantastic Blaze support, Robinson concluded, “The fans have been great and I always appreciate the support. They were there through it all last season cheering and supporting us, even though there wasn't much to cheer about. That's what separates our fans from the others around the league, thank you to those fans that have supported me and will continue to, we can't do it without you.”