The Only Way Is Up: A weekly Steelers perspective

With apologies to Yazz and the Plastic Population.

Life is still not fantastic if you’re a Steelers supporter; the team are bottom of the Elite League table and on the receiving end of mirth and derision from everyone else in the EIHL family. However, we have a new head coach in place and between ourselves: have a bit of hope. Read on for my weekly musings.

It’s been an interesting one, it has to be said, with the official unveiling of Tom Barrasso as the successor to Paul Thompson to back to back losses in the league. But despite this I’m not despondent at all, despite friends from every hockey club ribbing me left, right and centre. The Only Way Is Up for sure. Here’s my take on a few things.

YazzEven Yazz knows it…

1. Tom Barrasso

Before I started work last Thursday, I tuned into the Press Conference and Official Unveiling of the new Sheffield Steelers Head Coach. From that first word he spoke, he made it clear that he was the one calling the shots and would accept no fools from anyone. The kind of Head Coach who if you get on the wrong side of him, you’ll be probably out on your ear and looking for a new team. It was a refreshing change to hear a Head Coach speak with some passion and heart.

Barrasso is a born winner, you can tell that from the way he conducts himself. He wants to win for himself and for his team. No more of this namby pamby stuff, this is serious stuff. Speak your opinions and make your voice heard; that’s what immediately struck me.

Even after the losses recently in his first two games, he’s not singling out players for bad performances which is something that we had become used to hearing far too often from the previous permanent incumbent. He talks getting the “identity” back, “putting the building blocks in place” and not allowing himself to manipulated. It’s absolutely what we want.

2. The Players

Without a question, Jackson Whistle is probably the reason why we aren’t in a bigger mess than we are at the moment. The GB internationalist has kept scorelines respectable and without this, we would have suffered much heavier losses than what we have been on the receiving end of. He’s tried to give us the best chance to win every night, bar the Cardiff home game which I still believe he shouldn’t have started if he had been unwell beforehand. The rumours about Moose coming back, I would like to see banished. Moose is not what the Steelers need at this moment. Sure he has beef with the way he was shown the door, but with Jackson we have a goalie with potential and what better teacher than a Head Coach who has won the greatest prize in hockey twice.

The one thing that worries me, and I know I am not alone with this, is the lack of scoring at the moment. Josh Pitt, aka the Tommy Fleetwood lookalikey, is the one player we seem to be relying on to score the goals. At the moment, there’s no secondary scoring though and unless you have this then it’s no wonder you are in a position where you’re struggling. We’re relying on defencemen to chip in with goals which is odd, welcomed, but it shouldn’t be that way. There are plenty of players in that team who are capable of scoring goals. Hopefully with the influence of the new Head Coach, the hockey can be coached back into the them and the team as a rule of thumb starts to catch fire.

If there’s a proven goalscorer, unattached, then please let yourself be known to Tom Barrasso at Sheffield Steelers. I’m sure you will be welcomed.

3. The last two games

Both the last two matches have been losses, 5-2 in Nottingham and most recently: 3-1 ay home to Fife. Considering the first game saw the Steelers without four players in the treatment room, and lost another midway through it, I’m far from disillusioned about it. The team had had only a few days under TB and are still learning his systems and how he wants them to execute those plans. And as for the stick save by Whistle? My God, it was amazing. If that had been in “The Show” then it would have highlighted again and again, Don Cherry would have been salivating over it and probably stained his was that damn good!

Last night, Wednesday, Steelers entertained a Fife side that is full of confidence. The side welcomed back both Robert Dowd and Jordan Owens to the line up, and it was the former who helped create the opening goal with mid-ice hit that sent Tommy Fleetwood (Pitt) away. Whilst he couldn’t score, Justin Buzzeo did. It was a good opening period by the Steelers, but in the second Fife turned the screw: showing that their lofty position was no fluke. With just under five minutes left in that period, they levelled: top scorer Evan Bloodoff scoring shortly after a Flyers powerplay expired. They took the lead early in the final period, Brett Bulmer being credited with what stood up as the game winner when his shot deflected into the goal via Ryan Martinelli’s leg. Whatever Steelers threw at Fife, Shane Owen was again having none of it and they secured the win with an empty netter from Paul Crowder with just 26 seconds as the home side gambled.

So two losses in two games for Tom Barrasso, not the start that he probably wanted to have but it’s still early days for him. He’s only been in the job a week and a bit though so you got to cut the guy some slack. However, by all accounts from what there is a bit more passion and players aren’t playing as individuals anymore – they’re starting to work as a team which can only auger well. Obviously, once the team is free of injuries then TB will have a better idea if he needs to replace people as he alluded to in his post-game interview at Nottingham. It’s certainly not going to be an immediate transformation overnight but TB can get the team playing the way he wants then the team won’t remain bottom of the pile all season. It’s all about rebuilding confidence which had been so shot to pieces.

4. Looking ahead to the weekend

This weekend sees the Steelers go on the road on the Saturday, and back home on the Sunday. Saturday’s game is probably the hardest of the games that TB has had so far as the team head south to IAW to face Cardiff. As much as it pains me, I can’t see past a home regulation win but Steelers have produced results when least expected in the principality. It would be nice to have one of those again. Sunday will see the Manchester Storm in town and it could see the Steelers take the points if luck is shining on them. Here’s hoping it is, right? It might silence a few if that does happen, fingers crossed.

Thanks for reading….

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