Video: Wakey wakey: No more sleepy-performances ahead for “passive” Sheffield Steelers

If Sheffield Steelers’ fans felt last year's team wasn't all that dynamic - then Aaron Fox will go one step further.

By Bob Westerdale
Tuesday, 23 April, 2019, 07:45

He felt the team was lacking in energy, could have used more offensive creativity...and players were almost "lulled to sleep" in games.

The defence was too passive because they were running on empty, he felt.

Fox takes over coaching duties from Tom Barrasso having had the benefit of being able to analyse the last 15 games of their flat-line season.

The 42-year-old American wants to start his improvements at the back-end, which lost Mark Matheson to injury and had to struggle on with five, Ben O'Connor, Josh McFadden, Ryan Martinelli, Aaron Johnson and Davey Phillips.

Asked what his immediate aims will be, Fox said: "The biggest thing for me, when I watched this team over the last 15 games, was I want our D to be active, our D jump in the play, our D play with pace, play with five in the offensive zone, and I felt like the team couldn't do that because they were running really thin on the back end with only five D.

"You know Benny O'Connor is somebody who needs to jump in the play and play his game and he was limited because of the amount of ice he was seeing.

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"I really think it is important that we have seven D that can play.

"I am hoping for that seventh guy to be swing guy so that maybe if we are all healthy back there he can jump up and play a top-nine role for us as well.

"I recruited Aaron Johnson before he came to Mannheim, (2016) he is a guy who is big strong plays a heavy game. I didn't see that much out of him these last 15 games I think he needs to play an aggressive role.  

"The D zone that they played here was pretty passive. I want to be aggressive I want to get stops, I want to swarm, play in layers, force teams to make plays...so the style is going to change from what they have seen this year.

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"I am going to play an offensive game our D are going to jump in the rush. I am going to empower our players to make good decisions with the puck as long as we are tracking back and comíng back through the middle hard. I want our D to be aggressive in the neutral zone, quick transition.

"I want to be creative I want them to be able to make offensive plays I felt there wasn't a lot of life some nights because the guys felt a little bit lulled to sleep."

Fox said he would be comparing players on the roster to others that become available "all summer long.

“And if I think we can get better - one of those guys doesn't come back in return that's the way it's going to be.

"We are going to do everything we can to give ourselves a chance from day one.

"That's the biggest difference for me, in this role, I have always built my teams in an attempt to be ready to go come February/March for the play offs.

"This is a 54-60 game marathon here.

"You have got to be ready from day one so I am going to build my team to be ready from day one."

Fox would love to see his team play with speed and passion.

"In this day and age, you need to push the pace a little bit.

“You need to play with speed. Again, personnel will dictate that - I'd love to tell you that we are going to be the fastest team in the league.

“That we are going to play hard and play gritty, but we will see how things shake out."