STEELERS are going to have toughen up if they are to retain their league title.
That’s the view of retired defenceman Andre Malo, who watched his old Sheffield club for the first time in years, on Tuesday, during their crucial win over Nottingham Panthers.
The French Canadian, now a school teacher in Teesside, was delighted with the result but that joy was tempered, in his opinion, by the passive nature of some Steeler players.
“Not many of this current team seem to finish their checks off, they just turn away, I was surprised” said Malo, now 46.
“They need a modern day Tommy Plommer, someone who is always tearing into guys and getting things going.
“Ryan Finnerty is the closest they have got to that, while Mark Thomas, Colt King and even Jeff Legue will put themselves about.
“But the rest of them stand off” he said.
“Offensively, they dump the puck in but don’t always chase it in, again they seem to stand off. Defensively, they can be soft on the boards.
“They played well in the last period against Nottingham, but I was worried about the middle period, they were abysmal.
“I just hope they get things together and bring that title back to Sheffield again” said five-season Steeler Malo, who also had a spell at Panthers in 1993-4.
Finnerty, the player coach, was delighted by the physical aspect of Thomas’s play.
He said: “Going with four ‘D’ and leaving Nick Duff out was a gamble but all the D came up big but especially Thomas.
“He is often overlooked and taken for granted, but not by me. He was our most physical player, he was knocking down Panthers forwards all night, clearing the path in front of (goaltender) Johnny DeCaro and then at the end he was even putting his face in front of pucks to block shots.
“I just don’t think of him as a British D man on our team, I think of him as simply one of our D, he quietly goes about his business.
“They talk about winners and guys who know what it takes, well Mark is one of those guys.
“Come the moment, he turns it up and just raises his game. I don’t think he put a foot wrong all night. He provides simple plays when they were needed, big hits when we were under the cosh and then when Corey Neilson had the big chance at the end it was Tommo who dived head first in front of the shot.”
Steelers have no time to rest on their laurels.
Today they were embarking on a six hour coach ride this morning ahead of tonight’s game at second-from-bottom Dundee Stars.
Finnerty said: “Travel wont be an issue; it is part of the job. Dundee have two good lines which can match ours, so I will be hoping our third line in particular has a good night. Dundee’s third line is not that deep and shouldn’t be as strong as ours.
“Defensively, Dundee are very responsible and they have a good goalie.
Ashley Tait will travel but his ankle injury will almost certainly keep him out until the weekend.
Rod Sarich is “still likely to be back in March, but if we are very lucky, late February” said Finnerty of the kidney-injury victim.