How misfiring Sheffield Steelers miss Ben O'Connor, Mathieu Roy and the other great on-ice leaders

Ben O'Connor and wife
Ben O'Connor and wife

Which Steeler does the team miss most of all, after the wholsesale clear-out of Sheffield's 2017-18 team?

Is it the gritty round-the-net awkwardness and rebound-takes of Mathieu Roy? The selfless leadership of Colton Fretter? The all-guns-blazing approach of Levi Nelson?

Mathieu Roy: hard work and skill

Mathieu Roy: hard work and skill

For me it has to be Ben O'Connor. Not just a flamboyant, transition genius, but last season's top scorer and quarterback Power Play orchestrator.

Last year the GB d-man scored eight PP goals, part of 66 points, before opting for Sweden. Nobody could blame him for moving on, but his replacements have not filled the hole he left behind, particularly on the PP.

One of coach Tom Barrasso's biggest challenges is the PP. The team is running with a success rate of just 9.20% - the lowest in the League. They have had just eight goals in 87 PPs - and half of them came from Josh Pitt. The team would be in an even bigger pickle if he wasn't finding the net.

While Paul Thompson was at the helm, he tried to vary the PP approach to stimulate more offence. 

Now Barrasso has to wrestle with the same issue.

He says he is hoping the return to fitness of forwards will help them execute more ruthlessly.

Whoever steps up to the plate, they have to increase on that 9% success rate - the penalty kill, for instance, is a far healthier 77.5%, according to Steelers stats.

Nottingham Panthers, who play at Sheffield Arena on Saturday have four players in the top EIHL point-scoring top 10, their PP success rate is 23.21%.

Panthers top the Erhardt Conference and League table, so Steelers will need to put the break on them as well as get some sort of a run going, after yielding to seven defeats in the last eight games.