Sheffield Steelers, inconsistent and unpredictable, continue their team re-build...by re-hiring another former player

There have certainly been some ironies attached to watching Sheffield Steelers this year.

Sunday, 16th December 2018, 8:11 am
Updated Sunday, 16th December 2018, 8:23 am
Not tonight Dowdy: Robert Dowd's shot goes wide

Sheffield's season started in September with then-coach Paul Thompson unveiling an almost brand new team. 

He left, Tom Barrasso came in - and the close-season deconstruction Thompson had conducted was re-engineered and, to some small degree, put back together again.

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Jonas Westerling, Ben O'Connor and Eric Neiley, having left, returned.

And then on Saturday, it was announced that a fourth member of the 2017-18 squad, John Armstrong was also on his way back. 

The public declaration of Armstrong's return came after Steelers had been shut-out for the first time in this campaign, dipping 0-2 at home to Coventry Blaze.

In the game, Westerling thought he'd scored and hundreds of teddy bears were tossed on the ice (for local hospitals.)

Not tonight Dowdy: Robert Dowd's shot goes wide

But the crushing incongruity was that the puck hadn't crossed the line and the teddy show was for naught'“ literally.

Steelers hoped to sooth the fans' frustration with the end-of-game Armstrong announcement. And the centreman will, I'm sure, be a beneficial signing.

But it's a further paradox that he is another returnee that will be better known to the crowd than the coach who not only has never seen him play, but never watched any video of him either!

Barrasso's knowledge of Armstrong extends to a player-history web page and the word of trusted people in the game.

John Armstrong

So, Saturday was awkward - the team is consistent only in its inconsistency (Sheffield have won two of their last six) and Barrasso said they didn't commit to game plan specifics.

He said of Armstrong: "From what I have read and from what I hear we have a pretty good player coming back to our line-up.'

Hopefully, Big John will help put right the flaws of Saturday. "Commitment was the problem" ruled the coach.

"You need to be committed in supporting the puck at the net. None of them are going to be pretty goals, the puck has to get to the net, people have to get to the net, you win/lose puck battles and keep repeating that process.

Busy times in front of the Steelers net on Saturday

"As you tire teams down they will make mistakes defensively - you will score goals. That has been our modus operandi for a while and we just got away from it for a little bit."

He explained players had not been trying "hard within the system that we have been successful at.

"The puck needs to get to the net, we are trying to make plays - they have got five guys basically standing in the goal crease with their goalie.

"We are not going to make plays through the crease, we have got to shoot the puck, get it back shoot it again, and try and create some dirty offence."

Evan McGrath against Coventry
Another puck goes wide