NEIL CLARK comes to the end of his two-week club-imposed suspension this weekend - and will remain an asset that the coaching staff can turn to at any time.
So says player assistant coach Ashley Tait of the Canadian who was exiled from Sheffield Arena after failing to turn up in time for a team trip to Edinburgh Capitals. Clark has previously been left on the shelf by head coach Ryan Finnerty, who is sticking with his other 10 imports and cannot find a slot for the left winger, who helped Sheffield to the league title last term.
Tait says: “I don’t see why he can’t play for us again. He is still part of the club.
“It is all down to how we are playing individually and as a team and how results are going.”
Asked if he thought Clark might have too many negative thoughts about his place at Steelers to contribute as keenly he did last year, Tait said: “I think that is down to Clarkie at end of the day.
“I read the article (in The Star) that he still has a job to do and he comes to work every day, puts the gear on and, like everybody else, goes out and does what we are all paid to do.
“This is not a nice part of the job - sometimes a player is the odd man out; it’s all about how you manage your workrate and attitude and I have no doubt he can come back,” said Tait, who won’t ice against Coventry Blaze this weekend because of ankle injury,
“He works hard in practice and it’s up to me and Ryan to manage the situation properly. Hopefully we can all get to where we need to be.”
Asked if Clark could prove coaching staff wrong, by playing well and earning a spot, Tait said: “Definitely. That sort of thing makes your job easier, gives you another option. If he came back twice the player, that would be great.
“As far as things stand, (as the suspension ends) whatever was done is done and we can move on and start again.”
Tait said he was learning every day in his role as Finnerty’s assistance.
“We talk every day in the office before practice, we scout games together,” he said. “I have a lot more involvement than last season (under Ben Simon.) I have input at practice, discuss what we are going to do against teams, what other teams are doing, power play etc.
“Do I enjoy it? I think so! But it will be the end of the year before I know whether all the hard work was rewarded.”
Tait, who wants to be a full time coach in the future, said he would be happy to play on next season and would love to end his on-ice career at Sheffield Arena.
“There is not another Elite League team I would want to play for at this point in my career,” said the winger. “I have been to a few already!
“I am happy here and hopefully we can sort things out for the future.”