Discussions in blue and white
Salibandyliiga's new points system has already created controversy. With all games played to decision but a regular time win giving just the same two points as a victorious overtime or penalty shootout may not be such a good idea after all.
The game between Oilers and Classic on 22th September was the first time in Finnish floorball history when a Salibandyliiga regular season game went into 4 versus 4 overtime. Already in the final minutes of regular time, teams played extremely cautiously with Classic having tied it up late in the third period. The final seconds bored the audience on the stands and in front of their screens at home with Oilers taking the ball behind their own net and waiting to collect their one point. With that safely in their pocket, it was time to take chances with nothing to lose.
Having already scored three power play goals, Oilers' coach Heikki Luukkonen did not hesitate for a moment to pull his goalie every time they got the ball. Notorious for their superb power play, Oilers actually did not score another one but got the winner with Eino Pesu finishing on a breakaway.
More five - on - fours with no one sitting on the penalty bench in overtime soon followed and it was time for lively discussion. Should pulling ones goalie in overtime be banned or should you maybe lose the one point if your opponent scored in empty net?
Race of the best
After five rounds played, it sure looks like Oilers hired the right man for the job. With two-time U19 World Champion coach Heikki Luukkonen, they top the table with four wins and a penalty shootout loss against Luukkonen's former team Nokian KrP. Besides that, the table looks pretty much as expected with Happee, SPV, Nokia KrP and Classic trailing the Espoo team.
Far from all Finnish U19 World Champions have succeeded to make an impression on senior level with even 2015 superstar Rasmus Kainulainen just another young player in Salibandyliiga. This years gold medalist Heikki Iiskola seems to be the exception though, as he leads the scoring league having scored 8 goals and 6 assists for his Westend Indians.
SPV's Mikko Kohonen and Nokian KrP's Henri Johansson are running an interesting duel for about who is the all-time top scorer in Salibandyliiga. Right there in the game between those teams Kohonen became the first 800-point players ever with his goal and assist.
In that game, Henri Johansson had a bit of a last laugh as he scored the overtime winner and also got his #800 a few days later. Right now, Kohonen stands at 805 points with Johansson at 804. Their point-to-game ratios look different, though, as Johansson has scored his points in just 388 games where Kohonen it has taken Kohonen 486. Neither seems to be slowing down a bit, though.
Harry Potter in Kuopio
For this season, Salibandyliiga got a first timer as SB Welhot brought the town of Kuopio to the highest level for the first time in history. Coached by Janne Kainulainen, Welhot (Wizards in english) have built a strong wizardly brand releasing a Harry Potter-themed male model calendar and unofficially naming their home arena Tylypahka (Hogwarts). Welhot started their season with an impressive 10-6 home victory against Steelers but have had to work hard for the next one. Welhot forward Juha Rautiainen has made the headlines with his 14 assists in five Salibandyliiga games which tops the statistics.
Ville Lastikka's return from Switzerland was considered Salibandyliiga's top transfer for the season but his six goals this far have been little consolation as Steelers lie dead last in the league with just an overtime win against TPS won by Lastikka.
Champions Classic have won three of their four games but have yet to impress. Losing Nico Salo seems to have left a big hole in their offence and Petteri Nykky's first unit with Jussi Piha, Sami Johansson, Janne Lamminen and Krister Savonen has seen a new candidate for its left wing in every game.
EräViikingit made the Superfinale last season but were seen as the losers of the silly season. World champion Tommi Aro retiring to spend more time with his family and national team forward Kevin Söderling moving to Sweden to study medicine were not their only losses and their new players seem to be mostly juniors or yesterdays men.
Injuries have been another worry for coaching legend Mika Ahonen who moved back from Helsingborg to take over EräViikingit. With Mikko Kailiala with a plaster cast, Jani Kukkola with summer surgery and Mika Moilanen out for a lengthy period (all back now) there seems to be a pattern. Especially several Classic and EräViikingit players had an unbelievable year from 2016 to 2017 with the victorious Students' World Championship games in Porto, national teams gatherings and games all the way to WFC in Riga, both Salibandyliiga and Finnish Cup all the way to the finals and lately The World Games in Poland in July.
Impressions are far from scientific evidence but one must ask whether going such a period without much rest has something to do with those players pulling injuries and seeming to play far from their best level right now. Even WFC MVP Peter Kotilainen missed the first part of the season with back problems and it was announced that was a reason for him missing games in the World Games, too.
Petteri Nykky has been suffering double as at the head coach for both Classic and the national team. Finland finishing only third in The World Games was followed with clear losses in September's traditional showdown and Classic's undisputed final loss against Falun in the Champions Cup. With consistently insisting how much work there still is to be done, Nykky has showed minor signs of frustration with criticising the referees in September's Sweden game and blaming Asser Jääskeläinen for a decisive stupid penalty in the Champions Cup final. Among Finnish coaches, voices are heard asking whether Nykky should deliver stronger tactical structures instead of putting pressure on the level of his players training activities.
It might be an exaggeration to say there's a crisis in Finnish women's floorball but there are definitely dark clouds above. After the WFC 2015 final in Tampere, the national team has recorded seven straight losses against Sweden and finishing only third in last April's EuroFloorball Tour weekend in Olomouc led to new head coach Lasse Kurronen voicing strong comments of concern. It is going to be a hard summer working the team back to shape and that has obviously been the case.
One might think the Finnish top players put an enormous effort to the 2015 home WFC and it is just natural there must have lots of studies, work and social life to be taken care of after the consuming campaign. Also, there have been a lot of injuries in the already narrow talent pool with for instance Mira Wickman and Veera Kauppi just back after long-time knee injuries and Alisa Pöllänen out again right after moving to play in Sweden.
It is no wonder head coach Kurronen looked worried seeing Ella Alanko's bandaged knee after the Champions Cup final. Alanko seems to have gotten off with just a scare but Team Finland will fly to to November's EFT in Malmö looking for their self-confidence and signs of better times.
Only 10 Teams left
Also, the Finnish women's Salibandyliiga is a matter of serious discussion. With M-Team and Happee pulling out after last season, the Finnish Federation found no teams willing to fill their places. That meant the league would be played with just ten teams with each playing just 18 regular season games. National team players have condemned the pitiful number of games but obviously at least half the teams were in favour worrying about their expenses and time consumption.
In the beginning of the season, Classic who won the title last season with 29 straight victories have added another four making it 33 consecutive wins. Yet, as the Champions Cup final against IKSU showed, they are not quite what they used to be. Classic's first unit with Nina Rantala, the Alanko sisters, Sanni Nieminen and Hanna Sipiläinen is top class but the rest of the team is mostly juniors only on their way to the top.
Behind Classic, twins Veera and Oona Kauppi are hauling Koovee closer to the top and PSS captained by Mia Karjalainen and coached by Tiia Ukkonen is a medal candidate, too. With top players like My Kippilä, Laura Manninen and Mira Wickman playing in Sweden, the national top looks narrow enough to endanger the development of women's floorball in the country.