GIVEN the success Gerad Adams was able to achieve in less than two months last season, Sheffield Steelers fans can rightly feel optimistic about the new Elite League campaign which gets underway this weekend.
Adams essentially rescued Steelers’ faltering campaign after being brought in by owner Tony Smith to succeed the sacked Doug Christiansen, inheriting a talented, yet inconsistent roster, that had failed to deliver under the American.
The transformation under Adams was instant, his bright, easy-going approach having the desired effect as he allowed his new charges more freedom to play their natural game than allowed under the previous regime.
It was a policy that eventually paid off, leading to play-off final success against league champions Belfast Giants at the National Ice Centre in early April – the club’s first silverware since 2011.
The Steelers were scheduled to start their season tonight at the Motorpoint Arena against last year’s Gardiner Conference champions Dundee Stars, but a problem with the venue’s ice plant led to it being postponed.
That means Adams will start his first full season in charge with a visit to his former club Cardiff Devils, who he coached for seven-and-a-half years before being jettisoned by then owner Paul Ragan during the middle of last season.
Listen to Gerad Adams in our special HockeyTalk 2014-15 preview podcast HERE
It will no doubt be a strange feeling for Adams to walk back into the Devils’ infamous ‘Big Blue Tent’ for the first time since his departure, particularly as the coach of a team in the away locker room.
And while he will quite rightly receive a warm reception from the Devils’ fans, he will have little time for emotions to get the better of him as he prepares to see his team get off to a positive start in the Challenge Cup encounter.
While last year saw Adams inherit Christiansen’s disjointed team, this summer has seen him put together a roster on his terms, with only half the faces returning from last season.
He believes he has built a flexible team capable of adapting to any style of hockey, fast-skating but with the ability to hold its own physically as well.
“I think we can play any kind of hockey game that teams want to put our way and to win games you have to learn to adapt,” said Adams.
“But the main thing is that when teams come to the Arena they are going to have to adapt to us and we’re going to play a pretty cool style of hockey, it’s going to be pretty fast.
“It got a little bit stressful at times in terms of waiting on a few players, but we got the right guys,” he added. “It took some time, but every role and position that I wanted to fill I filled with the No 1 pick I had for it.
“So I’m incredibly happy with the way that it went in the summer and happy with the shape that the guys have come here in.”
After the way the Steelers ended last season – soaked in champagne on the Nottingham ice following Drew Fata’s overtime winner against Belfast – the main thing Adams and his players will have to deal with this season is the level of expectation to go one better and land the most-coveted prize of the league championship.
The last time the Steelers won the regular season trophy was under Ben Simon, and only then by virtue of having more regulation-time wins than Adams’s Cardiff who finished on the same number of points.
“It’s going to be a similar approach to what we had when I came in last season,” said Adams. “We need to focus on and accomplish the short-term goals and the big ones will then take care of themselves.
“I know that sounds kind of like sports psycology cliches or what-not but I think here (at this club) it is easy to run away with the big goals and lose sight of each individual game.”