David Simms Sheffield Steelers ice hockey column: Why Mark Matheson was cut loose
So one of the big calls Aaron Fox was always going to have to make was Mark Matheson, and a tough call it must have been. At the end of the day though I can see his reasons and back his decision to cut the cord on one of the classiest Steelers we have had here in a while
I’m not one of those people who blame the defence for last years woes. I don’t think they we half as bad as many people suggested, I actually felt for them for large parts of the year as the systems we played meant time after time they faced an onslaught of forwards coming down on them. Mark Matheson had come off an outstanding season, his first with the club, he scooped every award at the end of that first season so expectations were rightly high. Did he reach those expectations second time around? Well probably not, I buy that. Was it the strains of the assistant coach’s position? Who knows but it is true that Mad Dog wasn’t the powerhouse he was the previous year. But then again who was? I would suggest he was one of our better and most consistent players during large periods of the year, icing again many more minutes due to the injuries suffered. So yes, I was a Matheson fan. The decision to not bring Mark back though is totally understandable, especially when building a new team that of course Aaron wants to put his own stamp on. Bringing back 4/6ths of a D core wouldn’t be a sufficient change. With Aaron Johnson under contract and Ben O’Connor and Davey Phillips irreplaceable the hammer fell on the remaining three. To date Fox has replaced just one with the addition of Jonas Liwing, the experienced Swedish blueliner. Between you and I there is also another one signed … maybe more on him next week. Steelers will announce their latest signing today, a player new to Sheffield. I spoke with him on Monday for the first time and he seems a bundle of energy and certainly excited to be wearing Orange next season. It’s funny but we get all excited about new signings, what they will bring, how they will change us. I’ve tried to be cool this summer and not get to ahead of my self but I must admit I’m not doing a great job, the new year can’t start soon enough for me. When I speak with Aaron I do feel very comfortable with what he his building, I like his coolness as well. He isn’t a man to be rushed or pushed into a corner when negotiating. I think we got ourselves a good one there. With every day there seems to be a rumour of new signings, not only here but around the league. Speaking of Mark Matheson, he has hooked up with Tim Wallace in Nottingham, that move makes sense on so many levels. I wish I could wish Mad Dog luck, but he understands, he knows we can’t. Wallace also announced on Tuesday the signing of 33 year old defenseman Brian Connolly – no it’s not a puppet, that’s a different guy…… Funny isn’t it that imports moving from the Holy land to the dark side have never really worked, whilst those moving from that village down the road to the bright lights of Yorkshire have always faired better. Messrs Allison and Darling, Rick Brebant, Jeff Sebastian, Brent Bobyck, Dan Tessier and even Nottingham’s all time hero Paul Adey all won championships in Sheffield.
Pre season is only eight weekends away, that’s not far is it. Remember that tickets are priced at just £10 for the two iceSheffield games against HK Poprad on the 17th and 18th August. Better still tickets are priced at just £5 for the first Arena game a week later against MAC Bedapest – tickets have been on sale a while, you know where to get them from. This time next week we will know our fixtures schedule for the new year, I’m sorry but it will be a few weeks before you know it and it is published. On Tuesday and Wednesday the ten clubs will meet in Nottingham to thrash out dates. Without question it’s the most important date in the hockey season. Every team has different issues. Every team wants 31 Saturday dates, impossible. But somehow, every year we manage to thrash it out. I did our schedule for years, it’s as stressful a job as you could wish to have. Get it right and your team and business has a fighting chance. Get it wrong and the coaches and players as well as the owners and accountants are after you. Shaun Smith will bat for the Steelers next Tuesday and Wednesday, wish him well.