Sheffield Steelers may need 'one-two punch' when it comes to goaltending this season
Sheffield Steelers may need to ‘split’ the goaltending between two top-class netminders this coming season if they are going to win a championship.
That is the view of the club in response to their last campaign, when much of the pressure was put on Jackson Whistle.
The same backstop has a contract for next season, but unlike last summer, Whistle now knows he will have to battle it out with senior netminder for starting spot.
Club official David Simms insists the move for an overseas-born goalie to compete with dual-heritage Whistle should pan out well for the club.
"What's best for the club is of paramount importance," he said.
"There are so many games now...it is hard for one goalie to play 70-75 games. You need to split the goaltending.
"Competition for places is a good thing. So I hope Jackson fights for that number one spot.
"If an import goaltender comes in, if that's what Aaron [Fox; coach] decides, then the two can battle for the number-one position.
"I think that is good for competition; I also think it is good for themselves, but most importantly it is good for the hockey club.
"If we are going to win, we have to have great goaltending and I don't know if you can win (a title) - or you are very lucky if you can win - with one goalie playing 75 games."
Simms was a fan, last year, of Tyler Beskorowany, who Belfast Giants were reliant on to guide them to the league title.
"He got injured a little bit but came through in the end,” Simms said.
“But what happens if Bownsy [Ben Bowns] goes down in Cardiff? It can cripple your season. If you look at all the good leagues in Europe - yes they have a number one but they have a damn good number two as well.
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"If we can get an import goalie and Jackson that will probably be the best one-two punch in the Elite League."
Simms said Beskorowany was ‘head and shoulders’ the best goalie last year.
He has now departed to Banska Bystrica, of Slovakia - being replaced by Simms' number two choice from last year, Shane Owen, then of Fife Flyers.
The Steelers executive said he thought Whistle ‘did excellent’ last year, in an underperforming side.
"I think a lot of people blamed him unnecessarily," said Simms, who added that he felt there had been much higher-profile issues than goaltending to deal with.
"We knew him coming in was part of a project, as a British goalie, giving yourself the option of having that additional import out on the ice.
"And he was a young lad who had done well in Belfast (previous year) and he did very very well for us.
"He had a few nights that were off but you look at Bownsy in Cardiff, he had a few nights that were off.
"I certainly hope that Jackson is back with us and he's fighting for that number one position because he is a very, very good goaltender. He did nothing wrong in his time."
Having two top-quality goalies was evidence of how the EIHL had developed, he underlined, adding that that had been the idea when Tom Barrasso brought in Matt Climie, but unfortunately Climie was at the back end of his career and it didn't work out that way.
“Climie was a bit of a disappointment on the ice," Simms said.
“The way forward for the big EIHL clubs - those that can afford it - was that "one-two punch."