New contracts must depend on success

Matt Stephenson scores for Sheffield Steelers v Hull Stingrays
Matt Stephenson scores for Sheffield Steelers v Hull Stingrays

It’s that time of the year when players look to a club to start contract negotiations for the following season or bid to cement deals for the year ahead.

My message to Ryan Finnerty is though to be careful and not rush into signings that you will regret come June or July.

Many of the new Steelers have made a great impact and brought much early season joy and optimism. However, these players haven’t won anything yet and in my opinion contracts should be the reward of success.

The Steelers, despite their home loss to Belfast last Sunday, still sit close to the top of the table, a handful of points behind Belfast yet with several games in hand.

Many would wager a pound or two on them lifting the championship again but in the blink of an eye Finnerty’s Steelers could finish either second or third.

Why would you want to re-sign a team that came runners-up or third? Steelers teams are built to win; it’s what made them special and different in years gone by. Second best has never been our way.

Sheffield has once again become the place to play in the UK. For many years, players around North America knew if the chance came to play in Britain, Sheffield was to be their first choice. Firstly the Steelers were - and are again - a winning franchise; secondly the location was good for travel and thirdly the word was out what a good situation it was in Sheffield, not only for the players but for their families. That changed a little a few years ago but under the new Smith-Finnerty regime the good vibes are back and players now contact the Steelers and not vice-versa.

That gives Finnerty options and it also means that he can wait a little longer. There’s no need to rush into quick decisions. Steelers celebrate 20 years this season. They’ve a history of great loyalty to those who have won with them but also have a tradition of ruthlessness in disposing of those who failed to deliver the good after much promise.

Finnerty’s toughest decision will be who takes his place on the ice as next year he takes up his position behind the bench. He doesn’t only have to replace a second line centre he has to replace the energy that he brings and the feistiness that he adds. He also has to perhaps add 20 goals and ensure his successor is a leader of men. That will be a tough ask.

My inside knowledge makes me think that this player, this Finnerty replacement has already been identified, has already been found and is almost about to put pen to paper.

Steelers will have to bounce back this weekend with three games in four days starting with Saturday’s game against Coventry at the Arena (7pm). They play the return at Coventry 24 hours later and then it’s back to Sheffield next Tuesday for the Valentine’s Day clash against Nottingham (7.30pm).

Those players wearing the Steelers shirt can go a long way to ensuring that they do so again next year with three quality performances and three victories.

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