`

Masterful Matheson sticking around with Sheffield Steelers

SEE YOU SOON: Defenceman Mark Matheson will be back for a second season at Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley.
SEE YOU SOON: Defenceman Mark Matheson will be back for a second season at Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley.
0
Have your say

WHEN Sheffield Steelers' head coach Paul Thompson carried out his own version of the 'night of the long knives' at the end of the 2017-18 season, there were a handful of notable names who escaped the cull.

A trophyless campaign and an inability to prevent Cardiff Devils from winning an Elite League championship and play-off double helped convince Thompson that major change was necessary.

Some things, however, stay the same, Thompson already announcing that his British contingent - save for the KHL-bound Ben O'Connor and NHL Draft prospect Liam Kirk - would be returning for 2018-19.

Another vital component has now been added to that core with stylish defenceman Mark Matheson signing on for a second campaign with the club, the 34-year-old being one of the big positives from what was a largely frustrating 2017-18.

It was only at the second time of asking that Thompson was able to convince the AHL veteran that the UK was where his future lay last summer and the Steelers' boss was desperate to keep him and his experience around as he rebuilds the bulk of his roster.

"I think everyone saw that Mark was one of the premium players in our league last season - keeping him around was a top priority for us," said Thompson. "On and off the ice he brings quality and professionalism. He's a positive influence around everybody and, although he had opportunities to move elsewhere, he's decided to come back to us.

NICE TO SEE YOU ... Sheffield Steelers' head coach Paul Thompson is delighted to have Mark matheson abck for a second season. Picture: Dean Woolley.

NICE TO SEE YOU ... Sheffield Steelers' head coach Paul Thompson is delighted to have Mark matheson abck for a second season. Picture: Dean Woolley.

"Mark has a great skill set and can play in every situation. Also, the way he thinks the game, he has a great hockey IQ. Even though he is a veteran he comes to the rink every day with a positive attitude, wanting to improve.

"Players like Mark have been around the block and are not just going to jump at every opportunity that is presented to them, but he likes it here and he and his family are settled and that's always an important factor."

It wasn't just vital experience and leadership that Matheson brought to the Steelers last time out, the former Chicago Wolves man ending his first season second in the Steelers' scoring list with 11 goals and 51 assists in 70 appearances, fellow D-man O'Connor finishing four points ahead of him.

Such a successful return, along with settling seamlessly into South Yorkshire life, means Matheson was happy to extend his stay, particularly when combined with the challenge of avoiding a second successive campaign without silverware.

"We weren’t that far away last year, we need to get better in a few areas and getting that championship back in Sheffield is one thing that was a motivating factor for me to come back," said Matheson.

"My family and I were comfortable here and that is something that is extremely important to me, it just seemed to be a good fit, with the fans, the ownership and the leadership group we have in place already."

Matheson's return means that in terms of last season's imports, the futures of John Armstrong, Levi Nelson, Scott Aarssen and Miika Franssila are all that need to be resolved. As ever with contract negotiations, there is no guarantee of anything and it could be that Thompson undertakes an even bigger overhaul than first imagined.