Doug departs - Adams family on the way in?

Doug Christiansen - Sheffield Steeler

Doug Christiansen - Sheffield Steeler

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He was an ice hockey intellectual - a thinking man’s head coach.

But even the cerebral prowess at Doug Christiansen’s disposal wasn’t enough to save him from the sack at Sheffield Steelers yesterday.

Owner Tony Smith removed him from office within 24 hours of the team’s 5-3 Challenge Cup semi-final home defeat by Nottingham Panthers. With big-budget Sheffield unable to close the gap with League champions-elect Belfast Giants, Smith felt the time had come to make a change.

It is inconceivable that Christiansen was fired because of Wednesday’s result alone.

Which indicates the noose has been round his head for some time. And that suggests the club will have been silently working on a replacement for weeks.

Their recruitment targets are easy to indentify. Sheffield have courted Paul Thompson, formerly of Coventry Blaze and now fighting a relegation battle in Sweden, for years.

On a par with him is Rob Wilson, but he wouldn’t be easily dislodged from a successful spell in Italy.

Steve Munn, a one-time Sheffield defenceman has been approached, but won’t be coming any time soon.

Gerad Adams, who parted company with Cardiff Devils mid-season, would leap at the chance of a shot at the Elite League’s fallen club.

You have to spare a thought for Steelers like Chris Blight and Phil Hill, whom Christiansen gave a lifeline when they were shown the door at Cardiff. Will Sheffield now do the same for Adams?

Christiansen seemed academically streets ahead of any Steeler coach since Don McKee (1998-2000.) Players acknowledged his meticulous planning and preparation. But the odd skater has privately griped about a perceived proscriptive control over their play - yearning for more freedom.

The removal of coaches at Sheffield is nothing - and the type of character involved can be part of that cycle. Sheffield fans loved the robust personal style of Alex Dampier/Mike Blaisdell/Ryan Finnerty and maybe the new coach will be asked to display the same passion that they did.

Christiansen, 35, who is also the GB coach, cared as much as them - and probably worked harder than all of them put together. But it’s a result business, first and foremost, and the 6ft 5ins former winger didn’t deliver...although it is a fair bet the American will feel he wasn’t granted the time to re-invent the wheel at Sheffield Arena.

Captain Steve Goertzen will now be asked to take temporary charge, while Level 2 coach Neil Abel is also available.