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Eye On Europe: Post-season ups and downs

Despite adding former NHL P-J Axelsson to the lineup, Frolunda still fell way short of expectations this season. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Despite adding former NHL P-J Axelsson to the lineup, Frolunda still fell way short of expectations this season. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Frölunda Indians were touted as one of the strongest candidates to win the Swedish title, but the team has struggled all through the campaign, finishing the regular season in seventh place, 17 points behind HV71, the regular season winner.

The Gothenburg team had signed several high-profile players, such as former NHLers Per-Johan Axelsson, Joel Lundqvist and later Christian Backman, to bolster an already strong roster that already had Andreas Karlsson, Johan Holmqvist and Riku Hahl, all of whom have NHL experience.

The disappointment was completed in the playoffs when the Indians lost their first round bout against Linkoping, despite taking a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Coach Ulf Dahlen, in his first season as a head coach, having been an assistant with Team Sweden and Dallas in the NHL, was in the hot seat earlier in the year, but in January the club decided he needed more help and hired a new assistant coach, Stephan Lundh.

Last season, the team started slowly and finished third, but was ousted from the playoffs in the first round as well.

Now, the club is rumored to be ready to let go of Dahlen and, according to Swedish Expressen, former HV71 coach Kent Johansson – who was fired from Swiss Lugano earlier this season – is a candidate to take over the reigns in Gothenburg.

“I understand that people make that connection because we worked together so many years in Timra, but I haven’t spoken with him in weeks,” Frölunda’s GM Kent Norberg said.

Norberg and Johansson were Timra’s GM and coach from 2002 to 2007.

FINE LINE
Stockholm AIK was fined 25,000 Swedish kronor (CAD $3,500) for negligence in security measures when their fans managed to get to Rogle’s bench and take a swing at the visiting team’s coaches after a recent qualification series game.

The people responsible were identified and they have been banned from all AIK events for the rest of the year. AIK is a multi-sport club and the reigning champion in soccer.

It was first speculated AIK might have to play a game in front of empty stands.

PLAYERS’ CHOICE
Tampere Tappara center Jori Lehterä was the media’s choice for the SM-liiga’s most valuable player, a verdict that was mirrored when the results of his peers’ votes were counted. Lehterä got 182 votes, second-placed Juhamatti Aaltonen of Lahti Pelicans got 18 votes and Kärpät’s Pavel Rosa 11.

The players also voted for the best referee and like nine consecutive years before, the Golden Whistle was presented to Jari Levonen. Levonen, a former SM-liiga player with Pori Ässät, got 147 out of 178 votes. He won the award for the first time in 2003 and hasn’t let go since.

The award has existed for 23 years and only five referees have won it.

IF YOU PLAY GOOD AND INTENSE HOCKEY, THEY WILL COME
The first round of the Swedish Elitserien playoffs attracted record attendance. The average attendance in the four series, two of which went the full seven games, was 7,615, the best since 2000 and an increase of almost 500 people over 2008-09.

The smallest average attendance in the 21st century was 6,155 in 2002.

THE LEGEND LIVES
Ilves, the club with the most Finnish championships, is about to secure its place in the SM-liiga next season. The Tampere team leads the best-of-seven qualification series against Jokipojat, the champion of Mestis, the division below SM-liiga, 2-0.
 
On top of having to win the qualification series, Jokipojat would also have to acquire the necessary shares in the SM-liiga – which is run as a corporation – and meet other financial requirements to get in– a big challenge as an insurance company filed bankruptcy charges against the team on the day it won the Mestis championship.

The matter was over approximately 6,000 Euros and was later settled.

Eye on Europe will be featured on THN.com every Friday throughout the season. Risto Pakarinen is a Finnish freelance writer, based in Stockholm, Sweden who also writes for NHL.com and IIHF.com. When not writing about European hockey on THN, he's probably writing about hockey at ristopakarinen.com/hockey as Puckarinen. 

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