Well the dice certainly rolled in Sheffield this last week with coach Ryan Finnerty making some moves. Some enforced and some not. So are the Sheffield Steelers a better team today than last Thursday? And are they better prepared to challenge for honours?
I think the answer is yes on many levels. Let’s start with the departing Tom Sestito and Danny Wood.
It was lovely having an NHL heavyweight on the team and certainly when he first arrived Sestito was a star. He brought an edge, he brought a presence and a feeling of invincibility. In the last month though he became a shadow of his former self. Who knows why but I think a certain realisation that he could be here in Sheffield for the season rather than Philadelphia maybe set in. At first he thought the NHL lock out would be resolved in a few weeks so the whole Steelers experience was new, fresh and exciting.
Coming to the end of his second month and it wasn’t what he really wanted. Going to Cardiff wasn’t the same as going to Detroit. Playing Hull Stingrays wasn’t the same as playing Toronto Maple Leafs. Also earning a couple of hundred a week was very different to earning $900,000 a season.
The timing was right. With Simon Ferguson coming in and the Steelers needing cover at the back with James Jorgenson injured losing Sestito isn’t a huge blow.
The Danny Wood issue is unfortunate. Great kid, except he isn’t a kid, he is 23. He is an adult. Danny has potential but unfortunately it isn’t the Steelers job to nurse potential. Many fans disagree and think the Steelers should have persisted with Wood, given him more ice time and nursed the potential. The problem is that they are the same fans saying the world is about to end if the Steelers lose more than one game in 15. The truth is that you can’t have both.
Where did Wood fit in? He doesn’t remove Jason Hewitt as the ninth forward. He doesn’t move Lee Esders as the 10th and that was the issue. When he had chances like two weeks ago in Braehead he didn’t grab it with both hands. You don’t have to score a goal, you can make a hit, disturb the opposition, drop your gloves, do anything that makes those on your team sit up and think this kid has something. The Steelers did have the chance this season to become the first club to play four lines, Wood would then have seen a lot more ice.
The issue was though that if Finnerty had gone down that route Jeff Legue, Steve Goertzen, Shawn Limpright and Ashley Tait would have seen a lot less and those are the guys who win you games. The other problem Finnerty had with four lines was who would they play against – exactly, the first line of the opposition. It’s a shame it hasn’t worked out because he’s a good man. I don’t think the Steeldogs experiment will work for him either but I wish him well.
Ferguson and Chris Frank have to make the Steelers better. More experienced, tougher and with more scoring. Ferguson wants a job next year and is coming here to play for the season and to win. The same applies to Frank. After playing in Cardiff he wanted one more try in North America. That hasn’t worked so to the UK again.
The Steelers have had a great roster since August but despite heading their Challenge Cup group and being second in the league are yet to set the city alight with excitement. In Frank they have a player the fans can relate to and in Ferguson a player who has the numbers, the resume and the potential to add scoring to the Steelers team and take that first place back off Belfast.
The new duo make their home debut on Saturday at iceSheffield against Edinburgh Capitals (7pm). Tickets 0114 256 5656.