Ultimately, to be judged favourably in the demanding role as Steelers’ coach, you must win silverware.
But in itself, that’s not enough, as Gerad Adams found out last season.
The odd road loss can be forgiven. Even Sunday night’s 5-1 tanking in Cardiff. But key elements for job security include mandatory issues of winning at home...and beating Nottingham Panthers.
Paul Thompson faced that twin challenge on Saturday and he came through with both the points and the knowledge he’d out-coached opposite number Corey Neilson, who had altered his tactics in the hope of confounding Thompson.
Thommo found it a tense experience, though, admitting: “We bent a little, but we didn’t break. They played, for Nottingham, a very defensive system. They stacked up the neutral zone which surprised us all. I thought they were an offensive team. But they sat back,maybe recognising what our strengths are and hoped to catch us on turnovers.
“In six home games we have conceded five goals. Our defensive record is strong. Any time you beat Panthers you’ve got to be happy.”
Thompson accepted his side hadn’t been as tenacious as was necessary for large parts of Saturday’s game. “Give Nottingham credit for their defensive game, they made it hard, we didn’t play that free-flowing hockey because you look up and there are five guys stacked on the red line. It was a game of chess. Not a classic.”
Steelers conceded from the game’s first shot. Rod Sarich had tried to make ground down the left but lost the puck, the space behind him was exposed and Juraj Kolnik wrist-shot home after 68 seconds.
Andy Bohmbach was pulling the strings for the visitors despite wasting an opportunity on a 3-on-2 break.
Panthers were winning the one-on-one battles and Logan Macmillan could have put them further ahead.
But 22-year-old GB d-man Paul Swindlehurst dropped a game-changing clanger, handing the puck to Fredrick Vestberg, who flashed home an equaliser at 6;51.
Nottingham fell into penalty trouble and paid for it. Mike Duco had set the tone by battering Ollie Betteridge in a mid-ice ruck.
Panthers shipped in more penalties and Sheffield improved their decidedly-average Power Play performance by going ahead, Mathieu Roy hooking the puck home in typical style at 39:17, on a five-on-three advantage they’d practiced in training.
Panthers hit the post at the death.
Last night, Steelers forward Jason Hewitt equalled Ron Shudra’s appearance record at Cardiff Devils (626th game.)
But for the second night running, Steelers went behind, with Joey Martin scoring on a 5-on-3 PP.
Cardiff, the only team to beat Steelers in domestic play so far this year, (5-3, Sept) set the Big Blue Tent alight with two goals in three minutes. Tomas Kurka and Martin got his second of the night at 24;47.
Cue a Time Out from Thompson, to try and halt the flow of missed passes, poor defence and neglected assignments. It didn’t work. The unstoppable Martin grabbed his hat-trick.
Jeff Legue’s third goal of the season brought some Steeler respite at 34;34.
Sheffield’s normally well-oiled engine backfired on a line-change at 42;49 though and Devils got their fifth.
Steelers certainly have a problem with playing in Cardiff - and the dodgy ice was the same for both sides.
Sunday 11th October
Cardiff Devils 5 Sheffield Steelers 1
Coventry Blaze 8 Belfast Giants 10
Dundee Stars 4 Braehead Clan 3 (PS)
Edinburgh Capitals 5 Manchester Storm 4
Nottingham Panthers 5 Fife Flyers 2