MARK Thomas believes his old team-mate Steve Birnstill has made an astute move going to genuine championship contenders Braehead Clan.
But the Sheffield defenceman is determined to ensure that ‘Birny’ will be disappointed like he was last season, when Steelers fell short of lifting the sport’s main silverware.
Birnstill was off-loaded by Sheffield coach Ryan Finnerty at the end of the last campaign and soon became a target for Clan boss Jordan Krestanovich
“I remember playing against Steve last year and thinking that he was the type of player that I would want on my team” said Clan’s player coach.
Thomas, while sad on a personal basis to see his buddy leave, recognises the ambition burning inside the 26-year-old American.
“With the new Conference system, Breahead are in a very strong position” said Thomas.
“Everyone seems to have them down to win their Conference, which means that if they pick up some significant wins against leading teams in our Conference they could win the Elite League title.
“Breahead seem to have made a lot of investment in their squad and have got (leading scorer and Steeler target) Jade Galbraith back.
“I have tweeted Birny to say good luck, but having said that matches against Braehead will be ‘must-win’ games and we’ll be doing our best to do just that.”
Birnstill was the target for some flak last year in Sheffield and that negativity was misplaced, says GB defenceman Thomas.
“He was criticised unfairly by both some fans and in general” he said.
“I thought he played really well and was one of the League’s top D-men.
“He is a good guy and the criticism was unjustified.
“Going to Braehead was a smart move for him, he will definitely help them be the strongest team in their Conference.”
The League is now split into two conferences of five teams.
Teams in each conference will play each other four times at home and four times away whilst playing the sides in the additional conference just four times in total.
The overall championship is decided on total points accumulated in all games.