Another week and more excellent signings being made up and down the Elite League, what a season we have in store this year.
This will be the most competitive league we will have seen in our 26 year existence.
Years ago we would have been excited at the prospects of an American Leaguer coming to our shores, now we expect it, as a minimum requirement of our top players.
In weeks to come those teams challenging Steelers at the top end of the EIHL will make big announcements. NHL, SHL, AHL studs will arrive and perhaps we in Sheffield will gulp a little and think “Wow, good signing”
But don’t forget that we have already retained and added to our roster with that quality.
As we stand Steelers has 2,053 AHL games’ worth of experience, add to that almost 600 games of top level Scandinavian hockey, 102 NHL games and you can see many will be hard matched to equal that depth.
Steelers and Andreas Valdix have flirted with each other most of the summer, I hope that they will shortly be able to agree terms and get a deal done.
Valdix is an exceptional talent and coming back for a second year I would expect more now he is used to the league and style of play.
The Swedish forward managed to gel both Robert Dowd and Levi Nelson into a stunning line, perhaps the best in the league during the post season. The three were unplayable when firing on all cylinders.
So if Valdix comes back and it is still a big if, what are Thompson’s options going into the new year?
Well surely job one is finding a centre for the old guard, Messrs Roy and Fretter.
Option number one of course is the centre they played the majority of last year with, John Armstrong.
I think Thompson though would like to team him up with the two new comers, Wallace and Marquardt.
That leaves newcomer Jonas Westerling for the Roy-Fretter line.
Tim Wallace however can play centre or wing, maybe he could too see himself paired with our top scorers.
You can never have too many centres and Thompson has five for his four lines with recent signing Brady Ramsey expecting to play on the fourth unit.
The Steelers of 2017/18 will come across two types of opponents next season: those who will challenge us with four lines of their own and those who will stock up with three power house units.
Steelers have to be able to cope with both. Sometimes when you split the line up into four units you can come unstuck by teams first lines being out against your 4th – bench management is key in those situations.
Belfast, Cardiff and Nottingham will come with four lines – those games will be fast, intense and physical.
I expect the second tier clubs, Braehead Clan, Coventry Blze, Fife Flyers, Manchester Storm, MK and Guildford Flames to play three experienced lines against us.
I don’t think any of them will risk an inexperienced 4th unit against any of the big guns though they might try and blood a 4th line in the inter-conference games.
Dundee and Edinburgh, three lines in every situation, that’s a reality due to their budgets, they have to invest in as much quality as possible, not quantity.
So the Steelers will have to go four lines against teams in conference games but may have to adjust against the other eight, it’s all interesting stuff.
In years gone by when the Steelers won the league (twice in the last three) it was down to the Steelers record in cross conference games, the two successful seasons saw Sheffield lift the big prize without being conference champions. History shows then that Sheffield cope better than most with adjusting to different styles and systems thrown at them by other clubs.
Final point. Thompson may have Jose Mourinho issues come Christmas.
Hear me out, the Steelers aim this season is obviously to win but to ensure we have Champions League Hockey next season. A little like Mourinho, Thompson has two roads to that prize. Winning the EIHL or winning the Continental Cup. Now Jose ached his goal by winning the Europa Cup, Thompson will also have to take the Continental Cup most seriously this year. You can’t win that competition with three lines, only four will do there.
Lots to look forward to folks, 7 weeks and counting.