The signing of centre Andreas Valdix was warmly received by Steelers fans, and rightly so.
The 32 year old Swede showed last year what an exceptional talent he was not just when he was on the ice but also when he was laid up with injury.
Steelers weren’t the same when the Swede wasn’t at the party. Rob Dowd and Levi Nelson weren’t the same without Valdix in the middle of their line. He was the glue and the responsibility that meant that the two mavericks could go off and do their thing.
On points per game, Valdix was up there with the best. On the Power Play Thompson could afford Andreas at the top on the second unit, controlling the play. This is a man for all seasons, a truly good, smart and intelligent player and one we have been lucky to retain.
It might have taken Thompson four months to get his man but quality will always have options and Valdix did, in Sweden, in Europe and elsewhere in the UK.
When I spoke with Andreas hours after signing he was genuinely excited and wanting to talk about next year and winning the League title.
I did some filming with Dowdy a couple of weeks ago and he kept asking me “Is Andreas coming back?” The winger missed his centreman and wanted him to come home. That day filming Ben O’Connor, Davey Phillips and captain Jonathan Phillips all asked the same question: “I hope Thommo is trying to sign him” they said. I knew Paul was really trying to make the deal work. Talks with Valdix’s agents were non-stop. The club wanted the player and the player wanted the club, it wasn’t personal, it was business and eventually the business was done. Happy days.
You wouldn’t sign Valdix and then not play him with Dowdy and Levi. So where does that leave the rest of the line up?
Thompson has options with Tim Wallace able to play centre or wing.
I think the coach will see how new signing Jonas Westerling fairs alongside Mathieu Roy and Colton Fretter. Why? Well because I think Paul fancies seeing what the big three bodies of Wallace and Marquardt will do either side of John Armstrong.
Three very different units, three very different lines. The reality is that like every season that has gone before, the lines in August and the lines in March are often very different.
Of course with the forwards now all signed and just one defencemen left to find we say goodbye to two exceptional Swedes that helped us last year.
Markus Nilsson was the find of the season. A super player, terrific person who bought into all things Steelers. Pastures new for Markus, he’d have been welcomed back with open arms however perhaps he felt he needed to be somewhere different.
I’ve seen every player the Steelers have had in 26, 27 years. I don’t think I’ve seen a more intelligent one, especially defensively than Yared Hagos. It was a privilege to have him play his final game as a professional hockey with us. We saw a different type of player than maybe we have been used to. I recall one shift, in Cardiff, whilst one goal ahead when in the final minute he smothered the Devils, took possession of the puck and protected it like it was gold bullion. Was he sexy, was he a stand out super star? Perhaps not but was he a reason we won.
Two very different players we won’t forget in a hurry but two players who made us better. Thank you both.