Dave Simms’ Steelers Column: Prepare yourselves for Blaze of glory this coming season

Liam Kirk Sheffield Steelers
Liam Kirk Sheffield Steelers
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Just over three weeks before the start of the season, on August 12 against Sodertalje at iceSheffield. I can’t wait.

This Friday, the fixtures are released and we can all start planning our weekends for the next eight months. I can’t wait.

Luke Ferrara

Luke Ferrara

So as we all get excited I started thinking which fans around the league should be the most excited as the new year gets closer and closer.

I guess the real answer is we all should. Each of the 12 teams has upgraded, every team can have hope and aspirations for their conferences, a cup run or even a shot at the league title.

The one team that should, however, be more excited than most is the Coventry Blaze. This year, if they get it right, they will have a free pass back to the big time and challenging for the honours.

After years of below par performances, personal changes and general disappointment, the new structure of the Elite League has given the Blaze a chance not only to win their conference but also challenge for the league title in a way the Braehead Clan should have done for the past four years.

The Blaze cleaned house after last year’s pitiful season. Deadwood out, fresh broom and a clean start. To date they haven’t made a bad signing. Now do I think they will be better than Sheffield, Cardiff, Nottingham and Belfast? No, I don’t. But here is the thing; they don’t need to be.

If they can dominate their conference against Manchester, Guildford and Milton Keynes and then do the same in the Scottish conference against Fife, Braehead, Edinburgh and Dundee, the points they will amass will see them finish in the top three of the overall Elite League standings.

The Blaze, I believe, will be the best of the three line clubs, with those in the Steelers conference all playing four lines.

Danny Stewart has a chance this season to redeem himself, and the Blaze organisation, if they complete their recruitment to the level they have started.

Their risk is injuries. By carrying only 10 forwards, with former Steeler Luke Ferrara and Russ Venus fighting for the ninth spot, they need to stay healthy.

They also need to stay calm; the Blaze aren’t always good under pressure, which is what did for Braehead when they were in a similar position for the last few seasons.

Can they handle the nose bleed by being at the top? It’s not a problem they had a decade ago but times have changed.

So whilst the Steelers, Panthers, Giants and Devils are killing themselves and each other every week, Coventry could - or should - be going about their business in a quiet and efficient manner. Top four in the league standings a must, I can’t see anyway they can finish lower. They should be looking at top two and challenging for the biggest prize of them all. They have been given a great opportunity, let’s see if they can take it.

I still think that one of the big four will find a way to win it, find a way to go 500 in the conference and then dominate out of conference. There are a few more out of conference games this season that may help.

Good luck to Liam Kirk, Cole Shudra and Kieran Brown this week. At iceSheffield the under 18s and under 20 national squads gather. Kirk and Brown are in both, and Shudra and the Under 20s.

It’s great to see the young talent coming through with those leading the way having a Sheffield / Steelers connection.

As I mentioned at the top, the fixtures are out on Friday. As a club we want to play more games at the Sheffield Arena, and we believe the fan base is big enough for more games. We believe that being our true home, where the games are faster, more exciting and with more atmosphere, is where we should be.

Dates, as always, is all that is holding that up. How good would it be to play 35 games a year there? It’s possible - just as soon as the dates are made available.

Less than four weeks folks. I can’t wait - hope you can’t either.