Video: Sheffield Steelers haven’t had a proper first offensive formation for two and a half years, says David Simms

Sheffield Steelers head into the Summer knowing they cannot afford to repeat the blunders they made during the same spell last year.

By Bob Westerdale
Thursday, 11 April, 2019, 23:00

The club built a largely-new team in the last close-season – which then went on to flop in all competitions.

The standings confirm the sorry tale: in season 2017-18, Sheffield ended up two places and 14 points behind eventual champions Cardiff Devils.

Steelers last game of the season at Cardiff

Their main objective was publicly stated – they had to catch the Welsh up.

But at the end of 2018-19, the gap widened to an unholy 28 points and five places.

Last weekend, Steelers plunged out of the play offs to Cardiff, unable to compete with the Devils' firepower and team strength.

Cardiff had lost their league title, by this time, with Belfast Giants taking their crown.

Mark Matheson playing for Sheffield Steelers before getting injured

Reflecting back on how last Summer's Steeler crop disappointed, long-serving club executive Dave Simms, admitted the nature of the fall from grace "surprised everybody."

He said the whole club had initially been excited at the pre-season events and the run-up, he said.

But when the serious business started, it was all very different.

"We all thought we had a good summer, we'd all worked extremely hard," he said.

"Obviously it has been a mightily disappointing last eight months. So yes, it has surprised us as we thought we had signed a team that would have challenged Cardiff and we were wrong."

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He accepted that quality was the missing ingredient.

"I don't think we have had a first line for two and a half years” said Simms.

"If you asked me to put my thumb on it, when (Colton) Fretter and (Mathieu) Roy started getting injured 12 months before they left I think we lost the first line.

"And we have struggled to score goals...I think that has been the biggest problem that we have had as a team on the ice it is pretty obvious for everybody to see.

"I think those in the team know it, I think those out of the team can see it.

"We tried our very best to put that right and it has worked to an extent with some of the players we have been able to bring in.

"But I think if it doesn't happen for you in the Summer it is so very difficult to change mid-season.

"Because the real quality is already in jobs playing elsewhere."

The incoming new coach now has the job of forming a new-look side which is capable of challenging Cardiff and champions Belfast Giants.

Evan McGrath, who has a contract for next season, ended the campaign as top points scorer. He managed 14 goals and 40 assists from 64 games.

He was followed by Josh Pitt, who had led the scoring charts for the first three quarters of the season. He bagged 22 goals and 29 assists.

Top Brit, in terms of points, was late starter Ben O'Connor, despite the fact that he played 18 fewer games than the ever-presents. O’Connor had begun the year with Leksands in Sweden, before returning to the fold.