THE SEARCH is underway for Ryan Finnerty’s replacement after the Sheffield Steelers’ coach was axed yesterday.
While it was not exactly a surprise that the likeable, if volatile, Canadian paid the price for a trophy-less season, his departure will hang heavily over the players, staff and fans today.
Owner Tony Smith talked of having a “heavy heart” after being left with “no alternatives” but to let Finnerty go.
He will want an experienced coach this time round - believing, perhaps, that Finnerty didn’t have the coaching pedigree or credentials for the job.
Finnerty would argue the point - but is already plotting his next job in the sport.
Steelers are now assembling a short list of replacements, but at this early stage it’s easier to identify who WON’T be coming to Broughton Lane.
Paul Thompson would have been their number one pick, but he’s leaving Coventry Blaze for Sweden.
Former Sheffield skipper Rob Wilson would have been joint favourite: but he’s just signed a coaching contract extension in Italy.
Ex-Steelers coach Dave Matsos has intimated a desire to return to European hockey from North America, but he’s an outside bet.
Jordan Krestanovich doubled up as a player-coach for Braehead Clan earlier this season, but lacks the experience Smith is suddenly demanding.
On the other hand, Smith could be interested in Paul Adey, a former Steeler and Nottingham Panther who has done a good job at Val Pusteria in Italy.
Finnerty’s right-hand men Neil Abel and Ashley Tait are not on Smith’s wish-list though.
One thing is clear: Sheffield aim to move speedily to ensure there is not the sort of Summer of discontent that has been witnessed before.
Smith knows he has a responsibility to fund and find a team worthy of its amazing fan base.
Many of the Steeler followers stayed behind at the end of Tuesday’s aggregate-loss Challenge Cup Final to bid an emotional season farewell to their team and, as it turns out, their coach.
Captain Jonathan Phillips said: “They were amazing - our players thank every one of them.”