Sheffield Steelers '˜Foreign Legion' must find its way
Have the ins-and-outs, absences, injuries and form-dips of Steelers' import skaters played the most significant part in the de-railing of the club's League and Cup season?
Fans are looking for reasons why Sheffield have not kept pace with the league leaders Cardiff Devils and lost to the same team seven out of nine times this season - including Sunday’s Challenge Cup final.
The ever-reliable Mathieu Roy, apart, there has been limited productivity in the goals’ column from overseas players, in the last nine games particularly.
Homegrown Brit Robert Dowd has led the team with seven goals in that period.
And while linemate Levi Nelson’s return hasn’t been bad, other imports certainly need to step forward as the club heads towards the Play Offs.
Steelers have scored four in a single match just once in 10 games.
Maybe the problem goes back as far as Jesse Schultz, who was expected to provide the firepower on the right wing but didn’t and was cut from the roster.
Last season’s top-scorer Tyler Mosienko’s quit after six league games.
And possibly the biggest blow was the loss of Christoffer Bjorklund, who returned to Sweden in mid February.
He was a mobile defenceman who led the club in plus-minus statistics. When he was on the ice, Sheffield did well offensively.
The club had hoped this season’s defensive corps would add more goals than they have.
Without Bjorklund that became even more of a difficult task.
Paul Thompson, the coach, had relied on scouting reports, contacts and player-data before recruiting Schultz, but ultimately felt let down by his performances.
He also disappointed to lose Mosienko and Bjorklund - he could never have guessed both would have moved out when they did.
That was rank bad luck.
But maybe the biggest blow in import terms, has been the injury to one of Sheffield’s most influential players, Andreas Valdix.
He has missed no fewer than 20 games.
Meanwhile relatively new arrival Geoff Walker has hit the net only twice in nine league games.
And while Colton Fretter has put points on the board, he is most definitely one of the more serious walking wounded.
It’s been a year of challenges for the Foreign Legion.
And Steelers have lost their way, slightly.
They need to find it before the Play Offs begin.