'Soft' Sheffield Steelers are failing the fans
The word failure has rarely been associated with Sheffield Steelers during its proud 27 years history.
But Saturdays’ 5-2 defeat at Braehead Clan underlined the fact that this season has, so far, delivered just that.
Failure in the League, failure in the Challenge Cup and failure in the Continental Cup.
Is there anything Steelers’ fans can hold on to that suggests the Play Off campaign will end with an equal lack of success?
The Play Off campaign is a short and explosive one. So it is possible, if not entirely likely, that Sheffield can find form needed to make them contenders.
But it is now inconceivable that the team Paul Thompson built will not be torn apart in the Summer - a complete overhaul is on the cards and that means long-serving Steelers and popular imports will go.
To put it simply, Thompson has got to get recruitment right this Summer. And top of the list will be a goal scorer.
Recently he said he would give a metaphorical right arm for a sniper of the quality of Ken Priestlay. You could add Steve Nemeth, Jeff Legue and Joey Talbot to that.
Defenceman Ben O’Connor is the team’s top points-scorer.
Mathieu Roy, the man Steelers look to more than anybody else, started the weekend an astonishing 39th in the list of Elite League top scorers. The next forward after him is Andreas Valdix at 54th.
That is not so much of a problem if the goals are scattered across the team, rather than individuals. But that’s not the case.
Steelers score less than Cardiff Devils, Manchester Storm and Belfast Giants.
In six of their last nine away games, they have scored either one or two goals only (losing six in that series.)
On Saturday, Steelers went north up the snowy motorway looking to create history with 500 wins in EIHL league games.
But a goalless opening period seemed to undermine Steelers attacking confidence.
Landon Oslanski (assts Craig Cescon, Ville Hämäläinen) at 28:43 and Brendan Brooks (Matt Haywood, Cescon) at 30:39 put the Scots in front although Jonathan Phillips’s work ethic brought a goal for defenceman Miika Franssila.
Canadian Cescon got his third point to put Clan 3-1 up before two d-men O’Connor and Davey Phillips fashioned a goal for Eric Neiley.
But as Steelers over-pressed Craig Peacock scored unassisted at 58:57 and Adam Brace added an empty netter for a home win of 5-2.
Coach Thompson didn’t pull any punches - his first line was misfiring and 18-year-old Liam Kirk was the only forward who looked like unlocking Clan’s defence.
“Every time we have had a challenge this year we have failed. This was a great chance for us to battle and collect two road points and move up the table” he said.
“We were poor again; we had chances early on but we were soft around both nets and once again didn’t take our chances.
“I think the only two offensive chances Braehead had 5 on 5 in the middle period they scored with.
“We give up soft goals defensively.
“No one is changing a game for us right now. We knew they would be desperate with their play off situation and they were. I’d hoped after the week we had that we would be fresh and desperate but we weren’t.
“Right now a young 18 year old lad (Kirk) looks our most offensive threat and that’s disappointing.”