IN what is shaping up to be another fiercely-contested Elite League title run-in, former Sheffield Steelers and Cardiff Devils head coach Gerad Adams gives his verdict on the various twists and turns that lie ahead in the coming weeks.
HAVING served both Sheffield Steelers and Cardiff Devils with such distinction as both player and coach over the last 10 years or so, Gerad Adams is among those best-placed to determine the chances of both his former clubs landing silverware this season.
But even the 37-year-old Canadian admits to finding it difficult to pick a winner in this season’s race for silverware.
His two former clubs - currently first and second in the standings - go head-to-head in a double header weekend, with second-placed Sheffield hosting leaders Cardiff on Saturday night before making the trip down to South Wales on Sunday.
So far this season, home advantage has prevailed on each of the eight occasions the sides have met - including two in the Challenge Cup group stage.
Not surprisingly, Adams sees that trend continuing this weekend - with third-placed Nottingham emerging as the main beneficiary as a result.
“I’ve been following the hockey every weekend - not so much perhaps the individual players, but more so the coaches and the results,” said Adams, who was sacked by Steelers last April after 15 months in charge during which he had led them to a first Elite League championship in four years as well as a play-off title the previous year.
“It’s pretty tight obviously, I think it is too bad for Finner (head coach Ryan Finnerty) up at Braehead Clan where they seem to have run into injury problems.
“I would like to see them go down to the stretch at least but, obviously, it’s a big weekend this weekend with Sheffield and Cardiff back-to-back.
It’s going to be a real boring prediction I’m afraid because I think it’s going to be a split weekend. Each team will win their home game and that means the Nottingham Panthers are going to be jumping for joy and clapping their hands.Former Cardiff and Sheffield coach, Gerad Adams.
“It’s going to be a real boring prediction I’m afraid because I think it’s going to be a split weekend. Each team will win their home game and that means the Nottingham Panthers are going to be jumping for joy and clapping their hands.”
Going into the weekend, Adams believes both teams’ mid-season recruitment will prove key, while the absence of certain players on the ice in the next two days will be just as influential.
“Sheffield need Robert Dowd back,” added Adams, who has remained in South Yorkshire after leaving the Steelers and is now working as an account manager with Royal Mail.
“Rob is a big game player. Every big game I coached in with him, he was very present in scoring goals and creating opportunities.
“Their mid-season recruitment of Guillaume Desbiens has been a good signing. He is somebody I looked at and had communication with when I was with the Steelers. I think he’s had injury problems, but he is back now and is a huge piece for them and a very good hockey player.
“As for Cardiff, they’ve recruited very well late in the season and I think that is what will push them over the line. They’ve brought in defenceman (Gleason) Fournier and a really good forward in Ryan Russell.
“I know their resumes and they are both very impressive. Fournier has come in from Alaska in the East Coast League and has AHL experience, while Russell is a guy with time in the NHL and the Swedish Elite League - they will prove key.”
And in terms of who will end up with which piece or pieces of silverware this year?
“Nottingham have brought two new D-men in with Kevin Quick and Franklin Macdonald and they seem to be very good hockey players and I’ve heard their No 1 goalie Wiikman is coming back as well,” said Adams, who took the Devils to within a whisker of their first Elite League title in 2010-2011 when they finished level on points with the Steelers only to be denied because the South Yorkshire club had secured more regulation wins.
“I’m sure it is like last year where there are quite a lot of Conference games left and they have got to play each other a few times yet, so it’s going to be interesting.
“What I will predict is that Cardiff will win a trophy this year and I think Nottingham will win a trophy – I think the other one is up for grabs.
“I’m just not sure which trophy will go to which team - it’s just too hard to predict at the moment.”