My late father was a man who shared many pearls of wisdom to me. He would advise anyone who sought his opinion on this and that. One of the things he taught me was to give it all and put it on the line even if things are sometimes against you. I think you can apply that to whatever sport you play, it was certainly something I applied in the years I played competitive Sunday League football. That was a harsh reality.
Hockey is no different.
Since the turn of the year, Steelers have played five games and are yet to record a win. It’s a run of results which has seen the team slip from being top four contenders to, at the time of writing this, tenth in the table with just Milton Keynes Lightning below them. It’s also the worst losing streak that the Steelers have had since Tom Barrasso took the reigns in October.
If this position stays in place to the end of the season, the “unthinkable” will become reality and the Steelers will be missing a play-off series. This has only happened once before but you have to go back to 1992-93 when they finished 2nd behind the Basingstoke Beavers. It certainly would be unwanted history for sure. If it’s any consolation, Cardiff missed out in their own annus horriblius of 2002 and 2014 before their recent resurgence.
So what’s gone wrong?
It’s simple to say that the team has underperformed as a whole; but some of the new recruits have been less than spectacular. In theory this Steelers roster should not be struggling as much as it has, there is undoubted quality but they simply haven’t gelled and produced the goods. Netminders have been left high and dry, and as a result they ship goals with more holes than a colander. When they concede, you can see certain heads drop as if to think “Here we go again.” but once you’re stuck in a rut then the light at the end of that dark tunnel of losing seems an eternity away.
What staggered me as recently as Saturday was Swedish forward Jonas Westerling, who still looks like Joacim Cans from Hammerfall, taking to his own personal Twitter account to apologise for the team loss at home to Dundee. The Dundee home loss, in case some people didn’t know, was the first win against the Steelers in 30 attempts for their Head Coach/General Manager Omar Pacha. Pacha had obviously been waiting for a bus, as like buses, two came at once with Sunday’s success. But the home loss was a tough one to chew over particularly given how important it was when it came to the league standings. The losses over the weekend, just were not what the doctor ordered.
There is plenty of debate in the fan base which players should be kept for 2019-20 and which ones should be released. For me, the biggest question that will need addressing is – have the Steelers as a team done enough to talk Tom Barrasso into a new deal when the current campaign ends? I don’t think they have personally at present but that’s my opinion, the higher the final finishing position then the better chance Steelers have of keeping the American. Player wise I would only retain the services of Tanner Eberle (an energetic player who fits the mould of what we like to see in a Steelers player) and Aaron Johnson (because of his Uni deal) as imports definitely and add Westerling as a maybe. The Brit core would return as they’re the foundations for me on how the club is built. Some might agree, some might not.
With games running out, it’s imperative that the Steelers start winning again and soon as well. Just five points separate the Steelers from fifth-placed Glasgow, and this shows you how tight it is. Granted the teams above them have played less, Dundee are the exception to this rule, but a hot streak of form could see the Steelers turn their season around for the better. Players, for me, would be told that they are playing for their futures right now and a possible contract next season. If that doesn’t motivate them, what will? Sometimes you need to be this harsh. It’s the ultimate kick up the backside!
Should the Steelers fail to take anything less than two points from this weekend’s home and home series against bottom-placed Lightning then the problems are probably more deeper than we can imagine. These two games might just determine how the season pans out. It’s now a case to stand up and really be counted. Time is not the Steelers best friend right now.
The “unthinkable” could be reality come the end of March, Steelers supporters (far and wide) will be hoping it isn’t. But could this be the kick start that the club needs? Cardiff, Paul Thompson used to say, are the benchmark of what the Steelers want to be at and they came out of their dark period for the better. The gap between the sides at the moment, is a chasm. Two of the biggest fishes in the Elite League pond, with differing fortunes. Things need to pick up, otherwise there will be a lot of hard thinking to be made in the close season.
Strap yourself in, it’s gonna be a hell of a bumpy ride!