SHEFFIELD Steelers’ owner Tony Smith says the jobs of coach Ryan Finnerty and his entire team are not safe, after failing to win the Elite League.
But he suggested that positions could be secured if the side wins either or both of the remaining competitions, the Challenge Cup and the Play Offs.
While Finnerty has already acknowledged in The Star that he is under pressure, the owner’s reminder will further up the ante as Steelers prepare to host League winners Nottingham Panthers, tomorrow, in the Challenge Cup Final first leg.
Speaking candidly, on film on thestar.co.uk/video website, Smith was first to admit Panthers clinched the main title as they are “the best team this season by a country mile” - which must be galling as the businessman believes his club was the most expensively assembled in the division.
Smith said a post-season investigation would determine what elements of the Nottingham success story could be adopted in Sheffield.
“We have to look at what they did and improve our whole on-ice and off-ice products to be as good as they are next season.
“I’d like to take their (player) commitment, because they turn up for every single game” said Smith, adding that Steelers have been criticised for “not turning up for some of the big games.
“We are good at the small games although we have lost to the likes of Edinburgh and Cardiff an unacceptable number of times.”
He said that it was vital that they played better at big events - a timely message on the eve of tomorrow’s Final.
“We definitely have weaknesses in some areas and these are areas we will tighten up on next season” he said.
“Whether it be the fitness side, commitment, discipline...I’m not quite sure where they are but we will sit down and discuss it.”
Asked to confirm that Finnerty will be at the helm next season, he replied: “I have no idea at this stage. What happens to Ryan and the rest of this team very much depends on how they perform the rest of the season. It would be easy to say ‘yes’ but I can’t tell you that because it is not truth.” He accepted that Finnerty would have a “very good chance” of retaining his post if they win silverware.
But he pointed out that Arena fans demand success and if they don’t get it will look for alternative sources of entertainment, “like not watching the Sheffield Steelers and I cannot allow that.
He suggested he may have to make a change if the club ended up empty handed, adding: “I can’t promise anything. I wouldn’t be doing my job as owner and chief executive if I didn’t make those hard decisions. The fans won’t accept no silverware and I have to be just as hard as the fans.”
Asked about his personal attachment to Finnery, Smith replied: “I love Ryan to bits, he’s a great kid but it’s no good having a fantastic personality if we’re not performing in terms of silverware. We’ve spoken about it, Ryan is committed as I am to bringing silverware and he knows what is at stake. “We can’t carry on as we are without silverware.”
Smith said he hopes his side can build a big first leg lead at the Arena tomorrow.