I guess the big news in Steelerland this week was the decision of head coach Paul Thompson to release popular forward Luke Ferrara and defence man Mike Ratchuk.
My Twitter feed and Facebook page was a little busy as fans voiced their opinion. Let’s face it; Luke had been with us for a number of years, had made many friends here and was a committed Steeler. I can understand people being upset – why? Because I was one of them as well.
So were owner Tony Smith, captain Jonathan Phillips and both coaches Paul Thompson and Jerry Andersson.
The Star exclusively revealed on Monday that Ratchuk wasn’t being offered a new contract. In just one year Ratter became a fan favourite, and rightly so. He is a lovely bloke.
Everyone loved Luke and Mike. Still do, in fact; nothing’s changed there. Here is the thing, though; when you and I put our Steelers roster together, we can have everyone and anyone play for us.
It’s not real - it’s just us, all on the laptops putting what we believe is our best team out there. Our jobs don’t depend on it, the club’s future doesn’t depend on our ghost rosters.
Paul Thompson and Jerry Andersson, however, are the two people who have to make those difficult decisions for real, in real life, in the real world. They are the ones that consider every angle, roster size, playing positions, development, budgets (both salary and housing), work permits, flights, transfer cards.
They also know the chemistry of the room, they know what they are looking for in building a team for not just next season, but those in years to come. Sometimes you come to a crossroad, you want to do something with the team but to reach your final goal, sacrifices have to be made in other areas. Areas that perhaps those on the outside can’t quiet see at first.
I certainly think that was behind the Ferrara decision. Here’s how I see it. In Liam Kirk we have a special talent. We have another Robert Dowd or Ben O’Connor on our hands, a future top end player.
However, for him to develop and be the player we visualise, he needs to play minutes. He has to be in our top 12. If Luke remains then they share ice time and neither develop. That’s not good for them and being honest and selfish, most importantly it’s not good for the Sheffield Steelers who, at the end of the day, are our number one priority.
I know that Paul thought long and hard before releasing Luke. He questioned himself and went back time and time again over other options. When he first mentioned it to me I thought it was a strange one but then when I sat down quietly and thought it through, it was the only option. In time Liam Kirk will make the Steelers better, or at least we think he will. If we don’t give him the minutes now, then we will never know.
Also remember this, the Sheffield Steelers are the number one hockey club in this country, the number one brand and the biggest and best organisation. We came third last year, not first.
Those teams ahead and around us will improve, get better and that’s what we have to do as well. Those that leave have to be upgraded where at all possible, we have to be better so keeping everyone isn’t either possible or correct.
A lot of comments I read get personal. Its not personal, its business. Tyler Mosienko leaves us because he thinks he can do better for himself, that’s the business we are in.
Christoffer Bjorklund has a shot at a SHL contract. He loved his time with the Steelers - it wasn’t personal, it was pure business that he wanted that opportunity to play at the highest level so he left us.
It happens people, every day of the week it happens. It’s the horrible part of the job, especially when you are dealing with nice folk like Ferrara and Ratchuk.
Paul Thompson made the best decision for the Sheffield Steelers because that’s his job.
The Steelers also confirmed last week that as well as the four exhibition games against Sodertalje and Nurnberg Ice Tigers they will play two Arena games on August 26 and September 2.
The opponents and game details will be announced within the next 10 days. A four week training camp for the Steelers, their longest in 26 years. Eight games, the most in their 26 year history. The sport has changed, the preparation has changed, this is a serious 52 week of the year business now.
Before typing this Paul Thompson confirmed to me that he does have contract offers out to some existing and new players, it’s early days and he is waiting to see their replies. It never stops in Steelerland.