PAUL THOMPSON believes Sheffield Steelers’ ‘survivors’ have a crucial role to play in the next few weeks – both on and off the ice.
By the time the Steelers line-up for their opening pre-season friendlies against Sweden’s Likesands on August 11 and 12, a total of 14 new faces will have come through the door to office of head coach Thompson.
Just six players remain from last season – five of them British and influential Canadian defenceman Mark Matheson – and it is they who Thompson believes will be key in helping the newcomers’ cope with the expectation that surrounds the five-time Elite League champions at the beginning of every campaign.
“Jon Phillips, Robert Dowd, Davey Phillips and Mark Matheson, as well as the two youngsters Kieran (Brown) and Brad (Day) are all going to be key,” said Thompson.
“They are anyway for what they bring to the ice, but they will all have an important role to play with the new guys too because they know about the pressures of playing for the Steelers, so we will be leaning on them heavily.”
Thompson is confident his new-look team will be competitive during 2018-19, as the Steelers look to end the two-year reign of regular season champions Cardiff Devils.
As part of his rebuild, Thompson admits that he looked at what made both Cardiff and Challenge Cup winners Belfast Giants successful last time out at the expense of the Steelers, who ended the campaign empty-handed for the first time in Thompson’s three-year tenure.
“I looked and thought what made teams in our league successful last year and I felt that last season, in the three years that I’ve been here, we didn’t play with the same speed that we had done previously,” added Thompson. “I want to bring that back to our line-up through our four lines and I believe we have.
“Then you have to look at the likes of Cardiff and ask ‘why were they successful ... what are they doing right ... what is their blueprint? Then you look at what you’ve got and you build around that.
“I’m very aware of the type of team that I feel we need.
They will all have an important role to play with the new guys too because they know about the pressures of playing for the Steelers, so we will be leaning on them heavily.Paul Thompson
“We just wanted to get a little more hockey IQ and I feel that we’ve got that and I’m very excited to get these guys in.”