Schwenninger Wild Wings of the DEL have extended Paul Thompson’s contract through to the end of the 2019/20 season.
With Manchester Storm announcing the departure of Brendan Brooks yesterday, the EIHL player departure headcount now sits at 24. In just 15 weeks, 7 of the 11 teams have lost at least 1 player, and in a couple of cases, also their coach. This week alone has seen 5 casualties – Is it poor recruitment, poor pay, or is the league just not a place players want to be?
There is an argument for all of the above, and hockey players getting gassed or moving mid-season certainly isn’t a new phenomenon. In season past, numerous EIHL players have changed teams, but to lose so many so soon? And alarmingly, the list of 24 does not include Danick Paquette or Tom Parisi, both who left their teams (Coventry & Cardiff respectively) before the season officially got underway.
CTP’s own Lucy Hamilton, has been tracking the movements for each club:
7/11 – Ben Blood
4/12 – Justin Faryna
4/12 – Miika Wiikmann
4/12 – Kelin Ainsworth
3/10 – Kevin Phillips
26/10 – Marcus Basara
20/11 – Jindrich Pacl
23/11 – Dylan Anderson
6/12 – Brendan Brooks
2/11 – Joonas Houvinen
14/11 – Head Coach Doug McKay
21/11 – Eric Neiley
1/12 – Rihards Grigors
18/11 – Jacob Doty
27/11 – Sam Gospel
29/11 – Tyler VanKleef
3/12 – Tyler Biggs
17/9 – Matt Rupert
17/9 – Ryan Rupert
1/10 – Head Coach Paul Thompson
24/10 – Brendan Brooks
28/10 Chris Lawrence
30/10 Jiri Gula
25/11 Bradley Day (loaned to Hull Pirates)
Despite dropping to 11 teams, the EIHL appears to be in good shape and is arguably more competitive than in recent times. The Devils have strengthened over the summer, but certainly do not look like they have the stranglehold on the league that they did last season. At the other end of the table, Dundee & MK have shown they can compete, and win, against anyone when on their game. The UK in general is still seen as a tourist destination, and is a big selling point for players who come to play in the league.
On our list of 24, not all have been gassed by their teams. Several have moved to take up opportunities elsewhere. Is it purely money? Are there greater opportunities outside of the game which prompts the move or is it simply career progression? Regardless of motive, Cardiff were open in saying they were compensated for the loss of Ben Blood, but were Coventry compensated for Ainsworth?
Poor Recruitment /Coaching?
The Rupert brothers immediately spring to mind, but both appear to be picking up points since their return to the ECHL. Of course, clubs rely on various methods to pick up players, such as word of mouth or their contacts from years past, but does the blame lie with the contacts, or with the coach making the signings? In the case of the Rupert’s, was it purely the coach not knowing how to play them?
One thing is for sure – The issue with the vast amount of roster changes head resulted in some fans feeling somewhat disconnected from their teams. Coventry have seen 5 netminders this season, Sheffield have lost 6 players already, MK lost arguably their best player, Guildford lost a loyal Brit who was loved by many and Cardiff have lost 2 fan favourites. All mid-season.
There is no doubt the player merry-go-round will continue, but what can teams do to stop the better players in the league from leaving? Or does the EIHL in general need to do more to promote itself and make it more appealing in general?
Information correct at time of publication [12:00 07/12/18] will be updated as things change
Paul Thompson has a had a tough few months, but had a fantastic night in his coaching debut for German side the Schwenninger Wild Wings, helping the DEL side snap a four game losing streak.
With the Wild Wings playing host to Red Bull Munich, Thompson could hardly have asked for a tougher test in his first outing with his new side, but his team managed to take the win but needed an extra session to get it done.
Former Coventry Blaze and Sheffield Steelers Head Coach Paul Thompson is back in hockey employment. Today Deutsche Eishockey League (DEL) side Schwenninger Wild Wings announced they had appointed him in succession to Canadian Pat Cortina who was relieved of his Head Coach duties towards the back end of last month.
Time again to get those creative writing juices flowing once more and to write about the Steelers. It has certainly been a week and a bit over here in Steelerland, a week that again won’t be remembered for the right reasons. Remember though, these are my own personal views and not that of the Sheffield Steelers.
News and Opinons follow.
Paul Thompson has left the Sheffield Steelers for “personal reasons.”
The club today released a short statement announcing the departure of the polarising GM/Head Coach and that assistant Mark Matheson will take over coaching duties until a permanent replacement for Thompson is found.
The club also thanked Thompson for his hard work and effort.
Despite his successes within the game, Thompson remained an unpopular figure among some sections of the Steelers fanbase – and these sections grew more vocal after a poor start to the season despite a summer rebuild.
Things appeared to have possibly turned around with a rousing 3-2 victory over arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers on Saturday, but the Steelers capitulated 5-1 away to Coventry on Sunday.
Venturing into opinion corner here: Thompson can point to the trophies he has won in the past; as well as to losing players he undoubtedly would have wanted to keep (O’Connor, Armstrong, Neiley) and some bad luck with injuries to key players.
However, it was time for him to go – and he probably should have gone at the end of last year; when there were already questions from some sections of the support about the team’s competitiveness, recruitment hit-rate and some surprising selection choices.
Instead, he went all in on overhauling the roster with promises of catching up to Cardiff, but the results have been less than spectacular. In this regard Thompson ultimately fell on his own sword.
It became quickly apparent that the gulf between the two teams has never been wider, and many recruitment decisions highly questionable (not just the Rupert Brothers, let go after a mere six games); and while it certainly takes time to gel a new team it rarely felt like any progress was being made at all – the bright spark of the Nottingham result instantly doused in Coventry being the most recent – and fatal – example.
Thompson also appeared to be doing anything but engender a sense of team spirit or to raise confidence with frequent post-match attacks on players – many of whom he himself had just recruited – which only fuelled questions over recruitment strategy and man management skills as confidence levels seemed to drop to new lows. Results were not only poor but more concerns were raised about tactics and predictable play, to the increasing frustration of fans.
These factors only caused the portion of anti-Thompson fans in the audience to grow and to become more vocal.
Thompson won the league in his first season in Sheffield (with a roster mostly assembled by his predecessor) but being four years into a three year plan, with the gap to the champions widening and the home form worsening and the noise amongst anti-Thompson fans growing; today’s news, to me, feels like a good thing.
Thompson’s effort can never be questioned and some of the personal abuse publicly levelled his way was vile, but any questions about his ability to continue leading this team were valid. The Steelers were ultimately worse year-on-year during his reign, too many new signings came to nothing and this year the performances just weren’t good enough – or even entertaining enough; and his departure had a certain ring of inevitability about it. If the team has serious aspirations of challenging the dominance of the Devils, it needs a new person at the helm.
For further reading, our own Mark Duell’s personal opinion piece from September 21st pretty much sums up my feelings: Here.
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.