Well in case you wondered there is only one boss in Sheffield and that’s Ryan Finnerty. A point he made bluntly on Tuesday morning when he released the club’s most popular player Colt King.
I remember firing my first hockey player some 25 years ago in Solihull. It’s a horrible feeling, you have to be strong and do the deed as once your mind is made up there can be no going back. I fired a pretty average European forward, Finnerty fired one of the biggest characters and most popular players in Sheffield for years.
What Finnerty showed, right decision or wrong, is that he’s prepared to do what he thinks is right to make the Sheffield Steelers a better club, a better team.
It doesn’t matter if you’re way down the pecking order or right at the top, if you’re not doing your job then he will have you out.
King had the potential to be the biggest thing in Sheffield in modern times. A huge man, the toughest of players and a character, something the box office loved. Like so many before him King just didn’t realise what he could have had here ... a lengthy, well paid career and hero worship like only Steelers fans can give you. But in the end he obviously didn’t do what his coach wanted and paid the ultimate price.
Some fans and some team-mates will be upset but Finnerty has to do what he feels is right. I am a Finnerty fan, he has lots of pluses and a few minuses that he has to work on but this has been a huge learning curve for him. Next season he’ll be able to concentrate on being a head coach and not a player and as a result I think we’ll see a better coach and a far better team.
I interviewed Finnerty after the Steelers 5-4 home defeat to Braehead - you can see the interview on the club’s website - and he came out with a great line: “Some players are playing for the names on the back of their shirts and not for the crest on the front.” I think he’s right. Has Finnerty thrown a grenade into the dressing room just days before the play offs? Of course he has. Is that a huge risk ahead of a very difficult series against Hull this weekend? Of course it is. Finnerty will have known that and will have known the risks having weighed them up with his other coaches Ashley Tait and Neil Abel.
It was a brave decision that took guts.
I can liken the King release to two other departures. Steve Nemeth and Ed Courtenay. Two hugely popular players who coaches at the time wanted out. Two different outcomes.
Alex Dampier cut Steve Nemeth but Nemeth then appealed to Dampier through the media and Dampier back tracked and re-employed the hot shot forward. Courtenay was the league’s leading goalscorer but Blaisdell wanted him out. Ownership wobbled, the media wobbled, the fans wobbled but Blaisdell stood firm, got his way and the team went on to win a Grand Slam.
Only time will tell is Finnerty’s decision has the same effect that Blaisdell’s did 10 years ago.
The Steelers have a battle this weekend. They’re not playing well right now and have hit the empty button since their charge for a championship ended in Belfast. The Hull Stingrays will fancy their chances as they’ve run them close all year. If the Steelers play their A game they will win and win well but if they bring their B game ...