Star assessment: Where do Sheffield Steelers go from here after miserable start to the ice hockey season?

Sheffield Steelers' capture of Ryan Martindale represents another throw of the dice for the club as they seek to rectify a poor series of results and performances which have haunted ownership and management.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 28th September 2018, 11:14 am
Updated Friday, 28th September 2018, 11:27 am
Ryan Martindale: latest acquisition
Ryan Martindale: latest acquisition

But, with the fans divided, a touch of context and clarity is needed, when looking at the overall picture.

The truth is that employing a player from overseas normally involves a coach making his recruitment decision at a time when he's not actually seen that skater live and has had to depend on videos, stats and the word of others in the game.

The trouble with that, ofcourse, is that a player could previously have been a splendid fit in a foreign league, like the Rupert brothers were in the ECHL, but not here.

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"I am dead excited to land the pair of them" head coach Paul Thompson said at the time of signing the twins.

"They tick so many boxes for what we were looking for. They are young, talented, skate extremely well and play with some jam."

It turned out to be more stale bread and butter than jam.

A point probably not missed by the fan who turned up to the Arena last weekend to try and swap her "Rupert" emblazoned team shirt for the jersey of somebody more likely to be staying.

Ryan Rupert

So, given the fact that buying in players can be a lottery (and an expensive one, especially when you have to send them home after just six games) clubs take exponentially graver risks the more players they purchase off the world markets.

The bigger the new pool of players - the bigger the risk.

Thompson felt he had to take that gamble because his squad had failed last season.

But he is now frantically trying to change the character of the new-look side, bringing in first Brendan Brooks and now Martindale.

He wants the new Steelerhockey to be more like the old Steelerhockey.

Martindale's arrival was announced in an uncharacteristically low-key manner, with the club perhaps wary, now, of making a big deal of incoming talent, given recent experiences.

Are more likely to come and more likely to leave?

That seems an inescapable conclusion following five losses in nine domestic games.

All but one of Steelers' four wins have been by a single goal.

And none of the teams they have beaten are rivals you'd expect to be in with a shout of snapping up the League trophy any time soon.

Perhaps the most damning element of all of this is that some fans - and even some individuals connected to the club - thought it likely the team would lose, before the September 23 visit of Cardiff Devils.

Lose they did, 6-2.

And Thompson openly admitted the gulf between the two sides appeared to have widened.

I earnestly hope the situation is not repeated when Nottingham Panthers prowl the Sheffield Arena ice on Saturday.

Tony Smith, the owner, has kept out of the media spotlight during this dark period in the club's history. But in the last five games, his misfiring club has scored just nine goals in open play.

With a divided fan base, a message would have been welcome.

There is, currently, an air of desperation about the House of Steel.

But desperate times call for desperate measures.

And the team, its managers and owners, must all work and play desperate this coming weekend.

For a fourth home loss out of six would drive an even wider rift between the club and many of its fans, than exists right now.