Were fitness issues behind Sheffield Steelers' fall from grace?

Tony Smith says the quest for trophies next season has already begun - and the pursuit of providing a better team includes listening to the views of Sheffield Steelers' fans.
Training session for Sheffield SteelersTraining session for Sheffield Steelers
Training session for Sheffield Steelers

Some disenchanted supporters have levelled accusations at the 2022-23 team and its coaching staff.

As the club started to fall away in the New Year, one repeated suggestion was that some players were not in top physical shape.

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"A lot of people said the players were not fit enough," said Smith.

Former Steeler Adam Raska being testedFormer Steeler Adam Raska being tested
Former Steeler Adam Raska being tested

"And we investigate everything like that.

"Everything is on the table including whether the team was durable enough going into the second and half of the year.

"We need to send a message out that our players need to stay at 100 per cent with their foot on the gas all the time."

Steelers use the latest metrics in sports science to check on the condition of their skaters and goalies.

Training at the ArenaTraining at the Arena
Training at the Arena
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But Smith continued: "Fancy gadgets don't take away from the fact there is a question mark in that area.

"If you win nobody questions anything like that, if you finished second best you have to look at everything to get to number one.

"We have to do better behind the scenes as well as on the ice.

"How do we do that? That is the question.

"Some of the fans were annoyed, and I can understand that, they wanted to have bragging rights through the Summer we haven't got them again."

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Sheffield's coaching staff are confident fitness levels in the vast majority of cases were excellent.

When the fans' suggestion of low fitness levels was put to coach Aaron Fox, he replied: "I don't think so at all.

"Maybe some fatigue set in, and we had a sickness bug which meant we lost guys for multiple games from that and then had them coming back from that, but fitness wasn't an issue."

Fox's assistant Carter Beston-will added: "Fitness was not the issue for sure, the boys were very fit and in the gym all year and on the ice, there was no question on fitness.

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"This league is a grind, it's about staying healthy we did a pretty good job. You lose guys here and there, but it's a grind mentally, Sheffield it is a pressure cooker where you are expected to win every game and that's normal."