Simmsy's Sheffield Steelers column: High-flying Devils present a huge test
A difficult week in Steelerland but nothing we haven't
faced and battled through before, and I guess we’ll do so again.
Since I last wrote lots has happened, we lost a game we should have won against Manchester, lost a game we were never in against Guildford and also lost two players, Matt and Ryan Rupert, who never really got going in their time here.
Outside the club there seems to be bitter resentment from what I believe to be a vocal minority unaware of facts.
Inside the club there is disappointment and frustration but also a realisation that the first part of this new season was always going to be tough after making 16 new signings.
You employ 16 new people tomorrow in your office or factory and I bet a lot more than two don’t make it very long, that’s life not just hockey.
It was always going to be the case and unfortunately from day one it was clear to see that the two Rupert boys weren’t of the standard required or the level we had been told and led to believe they were at. The cord had to be cut and quickly.
One replacement we are confident will be here by the weekend, the second remains unsigned as we go to press but one thing is sure and that it is better to wait and find quality rather than just a body for a line up.
Here is my thoughts on the line up.
McGrath and Owens have shown they can be a first line, the majority of our scoring has come through them.
Add Robert Dowd, injured since day one and I think even the most ardent critic would agree we have a dangerous and offensive line there. Dowd’s loss has been huge, remember when he went down last year? As well as losing him we lost Valdix and Nelson for the same period, that’s how key Dowdy is to our club.
The Ruperts and Buzzeo were to be our second unit – this line never fired from day one.
You can see that Buzz has offensive talent but the line as a line was a dud with no offensive punch.
This meant the third line of Della Rovere, Pitt and Eberle had to play as a second line. They aren’t a second line, they aren’t a free flowing scoring line.
Sure Josh Pitt has the talent and ability to find the net but as a line they are a great third line, a shut down line. Ask them to play a more offensive role and it’s a struggle.
Due to injuries we haven’t seen the Lawrence line with Phillips and Brown / Whistle play as a fourth unit yet consistently. So without Dowdy and the Ruperts we were a line down and this has thrown the team out of sorts.
I believe when two more offensive players join us and Dowd returns to the line up we will have the balance required.
There is no trouble with goaltending, Jackson has perhaps been our best player over the last month.
The defence is stronger than last year, perhaps the power-play misses Ben O’Connor more than we had thought but overall the back end is better, a lot better.
We have to play the perfect game to win right now with goal scoring and confidence at a low, any mistake is being capitalised on as last week showed with the game against Manchester.
So are we content? No, far from it. But inside the club, are we panicking? No, far from it.
Two guys to play an offensive role and Dowdy returning will settle the ship and then we can take a view where we really are.
Of course this weekend we will be a three line side, in Manchester that is perhaps acceptable as the Storm will be the same.
On Sunday we return home to play Cardiff (remember we face off at 4pm on a Sunday now).
This will be a huge test as the Devils are flying after their Champions League games and victories over Nottingham and MK.
The Devils are the bench mark. They have made a few changes to their championship side, they have improved pretty much every one of them and start the year as clear favourites. Let’s see if we think that on Monday.