Welcome to the half-time analysis of the Steelers season so far.
Steelers supporters are used to dealing with ups and downs and this season has had its fair share of them. It’s been a season where the club have iced 31 different players in all competitions; more than anyone else I believe. Who’s to say that there won’t be more changes planned? A real roller coaster of emotions. As ever, what you are about to read are purely my own thoughts and not of the club concerned.
After the loss in last season’s Play-Off Final to Cardiff, which heralded the club’s first trophy-less season since 2012-13 when current Manchester Storm Head Coach Ryan Finnerty was the man behind the bench, General Manager and Head Coach Paul Thompson rang the changes with a mass overhaul of the team. Out of the roster that finished the 2017-18 campaign, only six players returned to start the new season and one of them as an import. Basically Thompson recruited in essence a whole new team as he looked to regain lost ground on others.
Unfortunately the massively reshaped squad failed to make an impact, scraping to wins on home ice and on the road – severely out of sorts. A 5-2 loss at Coventry Blaze at the end of the opening month proved to be the end of Thompson’s reign with sections of the fan base split. Thompson had been in charge for just over 3 years since succeeding Gerad Adams, and despite leaving with a 61% win ratio, felt he could do no more to please everyone. Player-Assistant Coach Mark Matheson assumed temporary charge whilst the hunt for Steelers’ 14th Head Coach began.
Matheson’s brief reign saw the Steelers slip to two further losses, at home to the Clan and on the road to Fife, before Thompson’s successor was named. Stepping into the breach was two-time Stanley Cup winner Tom Barrasso who had been coaching in the Alps HL. Barrasso came across in his first interview as confident, and one that would not take any poor performances. It was make or break. The Barrasso era began with a 5-2 loss to arch rivals Nottingham but those there, could see signs that there might be a revival on the cards.
Since then Barrasso has been instrumental in seeing a team that looked to be marooned at the bottom of the Elite League standings, to be within three points of fifth going into this weekend’s fixtures. The roster has been overhauled as Barrasso looks to find the perfect blend which, if it clicks, could see them make large strides up the table and surprise those above them. Premium Brits Ben O’Connor, who returned from Sweden, and Robert Dowd are driving the team forward and Dowd himself: is on a rich vein of form with goals and assists coming at a rate of knots.
To conclude, the Steelers half-time report could be marked as a B-: that is doing okay but capable of much better. Even though the title would be an amazing feat, everything would have to go in the Steelers way to make it happen, Steelers best chance for silverware this season could be in the Play-Offs. Like a wounded animal, they could the one that could surprise all and sundry. A topsy-turvy season could quite easily have a fairy tale ending, and wouldn’t that be something?
Thank you for reading.