Sheffield Steeler hopes for improvement on departing Marco Vallerand

He has seen them come and he has seen them go, from Sheffield Steelers, over the past six years.

Monday, 30th May 2022, 10:52 am

So Davey Phillips had a pragmatic attitude when he discovered team talisman Marco Vallerand had opted to leave Sheffield Steelers.

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Sheffield Steelers dealt blow as Marco Vallerand leaves for 'higher league'

He wishes him well - but thinks coach Aaron Fox might be able to upgrade Vallerand's slot.

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After all, defenceman Phillips has played behind some quality forwards in his time at Sheffield Arena.

You could pick three very good forward lines from the players who have moved on since Phillips arrive at the Arena in 2016.

Those three formations could include Mathieu Roy-Colton Fretter-Levi Nelson, Guillaume Desbiens-John Armstrong-Liam Kirk and Nikolay Lemtyugov-Justin Hodgman-Anthony DeLuca.

That's a championship-contending line up of absent talent!

Marco Vallerand in Slovenia.

Vallerand, however, takes with him a suitcase full of goals - he was the leading scorer in the Sheffield team last season and joint top marksman in his previous year in orange.

Phillips says: "It is part of the sport when guys leave and I wish him the best, if that's his decision it is his right to move on we can trust Foxy, (coach Aaron Fox) to replace him.

"As much as we'll miss him, you have to be optimistic that your club might sign somebody better! You never know, that's the way to look at it.

"There are a lot of goals which have got to be replaced, though. He is a player who does pretty much guarantee you goals.

Artistic pic of Vallerand by Dean Woolley.

"He has a good shot, good speed, he knows how to put the puck in back of the net.

"As a proven goalscorer, it is his shot and that speed that is always going to make him a dangerous player.

"You look at his huge goal haul, every season...but you have got to trust Foxy and his recruiting."

Phillips said in the dressing room, the 33-year-old French Canadian had tended to keep himself to himself, but added: "He speaks when he needs to speak, he is dedicated - he works hard and is a good guy."

Davey Phillips.

Vallerand was voted on to the First All Star Team in the EIHL end of season awards - a recognition he received a decade earlier in the ECHL.

He is one of three key Steeler forwards to have left this summer, the others being Armstrong and Hodgman.

All of which signals a perhaps busier than expected Summer recruitment drive for the coaching staff.

The squad has to be in place for the pre-season warm up matches starting on August 27 and the first proper EIHL Challenge Cup match.

The full fixtures are likely to be published in a month's time but The Star understands Sheffield's first home match falls on Saturday, September 10.

The Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham will host the men's World Championship division one group A tournament between 29th April to 5th May 2023.

Great Britain will compete against Italy, Korea, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.

Meanwhile, Belfast Giants face a hefty challenge in the group stages of next season’s Champions Hockey League, taking on Czech champions HC Ocelári Trinec, Sweden’s Skellefteå AIK and Switzerland’s HC Davos.

The first round of fixtures will take place on September 1 and 2 - meaning Belfast will have been up and running well before other EIHL domestic competitors.

It's the second time the double-winners have graced Europe's top club competition.