With two wins from their first six games, the new look Sheffield Steelers are struggling to find their cohesion. Matt and Ryan Rupert have been let go as Head Coach/General Manager Paul Thompson tries to find that consistency. He’s also split the fanbase with an ever increasing majority getting fed up with him, but there are still some who think he needs time to turn the Steelers fortunes around. Here are my thoughts, and they are mine alone.
I’ll be honest right now, my feet are not in the Thompson must stay category. This, if you didn’t know, is the fourth year of a so-called three year plan and for me it’s gotten worse over time. Steelers fans have seen coaches shown the door for far far less in the past, Thompson’s predecessor Gerad Adams being the stand out example, so why is one bulletproof and nothing seems to change apart from the mediocrity getting larger and the sounds of discontent rumbling louder and louder after every game.
One thing that really irks me is Thompson’s constant act of throwing his players under the bus when things go wrong. He hardly holds his hands up and admits that he screwed up. No player seems to escape this. It’s a constant theme and to be fair in my eyes for sure, I’m sick and tired out of this regurgitated excuse because that is what it is. If he had any morals he would be honest and accept his own failings. But he doesn’t. There’s just no need for this act.
Despite the crescendo of disapproval, Thompson’s win stat ranks pretty high indeed as seen in the below table:
Table courtesy of http://www.steelersstats.co.uk
So stats-wise Thompson is just as good as Mike Blaisdell who was at the helm of the Steelers in their halcyon days. But these are two different eras and the product then is vastly different to the one seen these days. Thompson’s hockey is as dour as the Doug Christiansen hockey, and Christiansen got fired for not providing entertaining hockey. I know I’m probably not alone but there’s one person indirectly involved here. You know who I mean. Thompson’s best mate and the guy who probably got him recruited. A man who divides opinions so much.
People might also say, well he’s not done too bad with an Elite League title and a play-off championship won in these three years. However, do you realise that Thompson struck lucky on both occasions? The EIHL title, Steelers’ fifth overall, was won with a team predominantly recruited by his predecessor and even then it was won with Braehead and Cardiff both choking at the crunch. If they hadn’t, Steelers would have finished third. Then the play-off triumph, which was sweet but exhausting (sorry Devils fans), might never have happened if Miika Wiikman hadn’t been injured. Granted Steelers had momentum that night but Dan Green, a reasonably decent back up, isn’t of the same standard as the man he had to replace.
Another critique of Thompson is that he gets outcoached far too easily. There is no Plan B when things go wrong. Adam Keefe, Andrew Lord, Corey Neilson all found ways to outwit this old fox, it just seems like his methods are still the same as they were back in the day when he was in charge of Coventry and GB.
The only regular season head coach not to defeat him last season was Omar Pacha, but then again Pacha’s been trying to beat the Steelers ever since he was named Hull player-coach and is still waiting to break that particular duck.
Everything ends up becoming far too predictable, I mean he tried to bring a style of hockey to these shores, inspired by his Swedish and Danish adventures (which weren’t as successful as some might think), and that failed miserably. He’s constantly being left in the wake of hungrier and younger coaches who are able to find alternative ways to win hockey games when Mr Thompson just appears on the bench befuddled as if he was Little Bo Peep looking for the sheep.
If I have anything good to say, is that he has given a few homegrown talents the chance to progress. Thompson did help Liam Kirk develop in the way he has so he got his wish in the NHL draft. Jordan Griffin and Kieran Brown are learning the same way, and it was the very same Paul Thompson that gave Ross Venus a chance to shine for the Blaze senior team when the GB internationalist had just turned 16. So I’ll tip my proverbial hat to this but apart from that, he leaves me cold with his excuse bin and the issues I’ve outlined above. He’s a yesterday’s man when it comes to hockey coaching but until someone tells him he’s not good enough anymore, he’ll continue to swim in the same treacle and the club that he is at will be slowly be left behind more and more.
That’s my thoughts and I know I’m gonna ruffle a few feathers with those thoughts above but this is freedom of speech and I should be allowed to vent my spleen if I see fit, particularly when I’ve been a fan since the opening day and when Mr Thompson himself was a just scrappy third/fourth liner. Fans from other clubs want the Steelers to keep hold of him but that’s for pure derision not hockey related. Genuinely, what are your opinions on Thompson? Share them with me.