So the team that will take to the ice for the 2018-19 season is known and out there for the world to see.
Stefan Della Rovere, the gritty ex NHL winger who spent a short period of time with Ryan Finnerty in Braehead is the final signing of this busiest of summers that has seen 16 new signings.
Let’s get one thing straight before we start, it was time for a new start, a new generation. As has been said before a couple of those signings were forced on us, Benny O’Connor by moving to Leksands, Liam Kirk to Canada and the retirement of Mathieu Roy and Levi Nelson. After that change was needed, the reality was that last year we weren’t good enough and you can’t moan that we weren’t good enough and then moan when changes are made.
None of the players who left us were signed by contenders remember, none ended up in Cardiff, Belfast or even Nottingham.
The challenge now is for this team to get together asap and that may be an issue. Operations manager Shaun Smith is now the key man, can he get the visas in in time for training camp and exhibition. Right now the start of camp this coming Monday seems an impossible task but game one on the 11th Vs Leksands looks doable. It’s going to be another busy week.
Thompson wanted improvement throughout the line up and I think he has it.
The resumes of Ervins Mustukovs and Jackson Whistle don’t stack up but that’s because Jackson is just starting his journey. ‘Moose’ had the experience but Whistle had the edge when the two met over the last couple of seasons. Don’t forget Brad Day, I think this will be the year he gets starts, sees more minutes.
The blue line lost O’Connor but has gained Josh McFadden in a similar role, its also got a little bigger with the signings of Ryan Martinelli, Jiri Gula and more recently Aaron Johnson.
Down the middle Paul Thompson wanted to be stronger and this is the area I think he has had the most summer success. Evan McGrath, Ryan Rupert, Josh Pitt and Chris Lawrence are the four centremen he can turn to. Face off specialists, you win face offs, you control the play.
Experience and youth on the wings, I’m looking forward to watching Jordan Owens very much. I’m told Justin Buzzeo will excite us. My old mate Mike Blaisdell tells me even I will buy a replica shirt this year and it will have Tanner Eberle’s name on it.
Also remember the returning cast, yes there were a few and everyone of them crucial to our club. Mark Matheson, our best player last year, player of the year, players’ player of the year, coaches’ player of the year. He wasn’t bad was he.
The irreplaceable Robert Dowd, he was missed more during his injury than any other. You normally want your imports to make your Brits better, well when Dowdy was out we lost our best line. It seemed like Andreas Valdix and Levi were out as well. Dowdy came back, they all came back.
The kids, an unknown in Brandon Whistle, a man trying to take the minutes off young Kieran Brown. Then the latest apprentice Jordan Griffin. All three trying to make their way in the pro game. Who will come out the winner of those three come the end of March?
Then the Phillips – Davey is the unsung hero of the team. Maybe without Benny this year many more will appreciate him as we do. A massive part of our club on and off the ice. Totally trustworthy out there and now this year he will be looked on to lead inside that room as well. A proper Steeler is what Davey Phillips is.
To look after this new exciting team, well it couldn’t be in safer hands could it. A man who has done it all before, our captain Jonathan Philips.
A lot will be on his shoulders, especially in the first few weeks when the team arrive.
The one thing that this team is, is a Paul Thompson team. His by choice, his by design and his by the making. I’ve never known Paul work as hard and as diligently. Every night we slept this summer he worked.
The amount of players that past his desk was immense, these are the guys he chose, our new team.
Saturday, 8th August, is the first time we will get to see this new exciting side. See you at iceSheffield Vs. Leksands – remember, that’s Ben O’Connor’s new side and he will make his debut for them against us. What a night that will be.