After acknowledging current head coach Tom Barrasso’s wish to look around for alternative posts this summer, the Steelers have been active in scouting for a replacement, mindful that recruitment needs to start now in order to begin putting together a more competitive team for the 2019-20 campaign.
In what has proved a difficult Elite League season, the Steelers’ current roster remain embroiled in a fierce battle to make the play-offs.
While Barrasso has impressed many since coming in to succeed Paul Thompson who resigned last September, he has never made any secret of his desire to return to coach in the Kontinental Hockey League, having worked there previously, or, possibly, another European league at a higher level than the EIHL.
But given the Steelers’ troubles, even with Barrasso at the helm, there may not be many options open to the two-time Stanley Cup champion, unless he manages to coax a play-off triumph out of his players.
In the meantime, owner Smith said the club had narrowed the shortlist down to four to five candidates although he insisted, out of courtesy to Barrasso, there would be no announcement on the final decision until the end of the season.
“We have about four or five candidates on a shortlist and we expect to sign a coach very soon,” said Smith.
“But, out of courtesy to Tom, we won’t announce that coach until the season has finished.
“We’re still looking for the right guy, but I think we’re very close.”
Smith said the most important factor for any new coach brought in by the Steelers would be their ability to recruit a team capable of challenging for honours, with the Steelers’ last lifting silverware in the 2017 play-off final.
“We’re resigned to the fact that Tom isn’t going to be here next season,” added Smith. “I had the conversation with Tom a few weeks ago. He clearly wants to look around and we’re not in a position to wait for that.
“Right now is when you start recruiting, not just a coach, but your players for next season. We’re looking for a coach who has excellent recruiting skills, that’s the No 1 priority going forward.”
Smith said he was was expecting a crowd of around 8,500 at Sheffield Arena for tonight’s clash with Fife Flyers, one of six games remaining for Barrasso’s team.
The Steelers, who travel to Fife tomorrow, go into the game one point behind their Scottish rivals, having played three games more.