Why did NINE Sheffield Steelers players have to bite the bullet?
Sheffield Steelers' Summer clear-out has been quick, ruthless but (hopefully) calculated.
An almost unprecedented nine imports were told their services are no longer required as coach Paul Thompson seeks a new formula to catch up with champions Cardiff Devils.The hunt is on for new blood - younger, faster players, more prolific scorers and performers with the character of Guillaume Desbiens, whose withdrawal from the 2017-18 squad did incalculable damage.
Bob Westerdale surveys the wreckage of a trophy-less season.
SO WHY MUST NINE GO?Ervins Mustukovs: A hard one to figure - after all he is frequently the League’s top goalie statistically. Always fit and focused. Is there something we don’t know? "We're moving in a different direction, there is good news to follow" says Thompson, only adding to the mystery.Zack Fitzgerald: The biggest blow for fans. His relationship with the orange hordes is on a par with any player before him. Presumably the fact he no longer became a first-choice defenceman, is 33 in June, his occasional penalty lapses and the speed of the game, were his downfall.Andreas Jamtin: Likened to Rick Brebant one minute, toast the next. Dropped from the Finals, after the distraction of parenthood back home in Sweden. Unconfirmed rumours he wasn’t massively popular in the dressing room. Andreas Valdix: One of the best centremen in the League in season 2016-17, but less of an impact this time round. I thought he had a good Nottingham weekend, but for his salary, Steelers must feel they can upgrade.Tim Wallace: I remember him scoring a sweet near-post goal at iceSheffield and wondering: ‘Why don’t you do this more often?” He didn’t. Big offensive disappointment.Matt Marquardt: Looks the part, is a force driving the net, but there are questions about his overall ability and game-management. It just didn’t work out for him in Sheffield.Colton Fretter: Like all great club servants, there is a time to go. He said he’d consider his options in the Summer - but the decision was made for him. A Steelers Hall of Famer.Jonas Westerling: If there’s a player who gives everything - it’s Jonas. I thought he’d be worth delaying a decision on. But his points-per-game went against him.Joonas Ronnberg: Would have been an automatic returnee for Paul Thompson - so I assume the Finn’s domestic circumstances were again complicated. For a huge man he wasn’t very physical. But plus-minus stats were always good.
THOSE STILL IN THE MIXScott Aarssen: Small but mobile, consistent points. He should have an even better second season.Levi Nelson: An interesting one. Here’s a player you want to see charging full-tilt towards goal. But his turn-overs have worried coaching staff. The fact he’s still very much an option shows how the coach values his partnership with Robert Dowd.Miika Franssila: Dropped for the semi final but his speed and ability to join the rush saved him from the cull.Mark Matheson: Of inestimable value - for his points, intelligence, poise and consistency. Re-sign him, sharpish!John Armstrong: Steelers’ season started to go belly-up when he got injured - he was leading scorer at the time. He could be after an improved contract though, so the bean counters will play a part in this. Eric Neiley: In some ways perhaps fortunate to be in the possible retained list, given some of the bigger names that have gone. But at 26 his best is yet to come and his Play Off Final goal and enthusiastic run-in to the season-end didn’t do him any harm.
MATHIEU ROYIn a category of his own: an import with a contract. At times Roy will have been disappointed with his output and his slide down the pecking order. Yet he was still highest scoring forward with 57 points in 61 games.