Sheffield Steelers Column: Gerard Adams’ biggest test is keeping his star men happy

Gerad Adams
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Looking from a far I guess we would all say that you can’t have too many good players on your team, well Steelers boss Gerad Adams is just about to find out if that saying is true.

This weekend could see the return of both Robert Dowd and Pascal Morency, the two forwards have been missing for some weeks and in that time the club have acquired the services of Ben O’Connor.

This means that Adams now has seven quality defencemen and 10 forwards. With O’Connor arriving this will more than likely mean that Adams moves one of his defencemen, most probably Rod Sarich, up front thus making six and 11.

None of these players are kids, none learning their trade, happy to sit on the bench awaiting the odd shift. These are all experienced professionals. Players expecting ice time, good minutes. They say the test of a good hockey coach is when you have injuries and you have a short bench. How you cope, how you swap your players around. This test for Adams is equally if not more interesting. How does he make the sums work for the betterment of the team?

‘Bench Management’ is what they call it. Adams will know keeping a side full of experienced players happy and content will be far from easy. He may have to make a couple of those players unhappy, reducing their ice time and playing situations. He may make the decision to try and play four lines - pretty much unheard of in UK hockey.

This weekend won’t be too much of an issue, guys coming back into the one up after a long lay off will mean they can be gently eased into the play. Next week however, or the week after, then that is where we will see what Adams has decided.

I would still rather have this problem than that of having a shortage of players on my bench.

It is easy at Real Madrid, they have league games then Champions League games. They can mix up their squad easier than a hockey coach can do that here. You can play Gareth Bale on a Wednesday against Chelsea but then rest him for another international on Saturday against Valencia. Hockey players are different, they want to play every night, and can do so.

To win a league title Adams will know that weekends in Scotland like this one coming is as critical as a home and away series against Nottingham and Belfast. Playing just four games against Scottish opponents means that title rivals Braehead have a huge advantage (as they play eight against each other Scottish conference team (plus Hull), and just four down south (against Sheffield, Belfast, Nottingham, Cardiff and Coventry) - therefore ensuring you drop as few points up north, if any, is crucial going forward.

Steelers have already beaten Fife home and away and can cross those two games off their schedule. If late into the night on Sunday, Adams and his team return across the border with four points from Edinburgh and Dundee then another box in this teams ability to get the job done will have been ticked. If Adams can tick that box, keep his Steelers side free of more injuries and integrate both Morency and Dowd back into the team then he will be a very happy head coach.

Steelers aren’t back at the Motorpoint Arena until the 15th and 16th November against Belfast and then Braehead in a home double header weekend. The club has confirmed a £25 adult ticket for the the whole weekend (2 games) - £19 for all concessions. Owner Tony Smith is keen that fans aren’t priced out of hockey by the scheduling issue the club has faced so far this year. Good value for a great weekend of action.