Cool-headed Ervins Mustukovs isn’t the type to make snap judgements.
But the Latvian has a good feeling about his new-look Sheffield Steelers, after monitoring the make-up of the side from his goal cage in training.
The 33-year-old netminder says: “I think the team looks great, we have lots of experienced guys and they know how to prepare themselves during the pre-season. So my first impression is positive.
“It’s always hard to tell, you need to be a realistic” he said. “You can say I’m going to win (a title;) but it’s depends not just on me and my efforts. It’s a team sport so if we will are 100% a team we can win.
“All teams from our group will be a challengers, game by game. You need to be as good as you can be, every game. I will not promise to win everything but I will do everything to achieve that.”
Coach Paul Thompson has wanted a more resolute defence this year compared to last.
Asked if he shared the view that the blueline needed strengthening, the goalie replied: “Rule number one: the coach is always right. Rule number two is even if he’s not right look at the rule number one!
“For me personally I’m always looking at my game. Everybody should do their own job, not others. That’s what professional sport is to me.”
Mustukovs enjoyed a stress-free Summer. “I signed my contract early so didn’t even look anything else. I returned here because I liked team, have a good relationship with the coach and the fans were a big part of my decision. It is always great to play in front of them, the rink is so nice, the organisation, friendly staff, it was an easy choice to make.”
The netminder does not know whether he is in the best shape of my life - as he appears - but he added: “I feel good and I’m enjoying hockey more than ever. When you are young you are not thinking about that as something special but the older you get you start to appreciate it.”
‘Moose’ acknowledges that rivals Nottingham Panthers have made a good signing in goal.
“All goalies in this League are good. I like to play against better goalie because when you are playing against the best of the best you become better by yourself. This season, ofcourse, it will be Michael Garnett, he has such a good CV. I remember him from the time I played in Dinamo Riga he was then in KHL team HK MVD.”
Steelers face off their first pre-season game against Södertälje SK on Saturday.