Dave Simms column: Search is on for home-grown Steelers talent

Jason Hewitt needs replacing at Sheffield Steelers
Jason Hewitt needs replacing at Sheffield Steelers

The Steelers had four lines of three forwards for the European CHL games last season,.

When Phil Hill left, the best the Steelers could muster when rarely fully fit was four pairs of wingers and three rotating centres.

Next season, expect Paul Thompson to have four full lines. He saw Belfast and, more importantly, Nottingham quickly buy into four-line theory and knows those clubs will be joined by several others upping the bench size of their club in the next campaign.

But how does Thompson get to four lines - and, if he is so keen, who does he bring in to fill the positions?

Well, next season all EIHL clubs will have an extra import, 14 in total. That extra player would have made the four lines work but the Steelers have lost Jason Hewitt. Without a homegrown replacement, Thompson can’t make the four lines work.

So the reality is that Thompson and the Steelers have to go out and find a new British player. Recent junior signings Kirk and Shudra aren’t ready for that role yet, or certainly won’t be at the start of the season.

Paul Thompson, centre, with future prospects Cole Shudra, left and Liam Kirk. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Paul Thompson, centre, with future prospects Cole Shudra, left and Liam Kirk. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Ben Davies is negotiating hard in Braehead, could he be a target? Sheffield-born Matt Haywood is another - though, unlike Davies, he is under contract with the Clan.

Nottingham is an interesting case. Bringing in the extra import might, just might persuade one of their GB internationals to move on. Robert Lachowicz is a skilled player, Robert Farmer knows Thompson already from their time in Coventry together. Matthew Myers is a bull that would fit nicely into Thompson’s china shop. Myers always puts himself about, though normally stays put at the end of the day. No, I don’t see Myers in Sheffield. One of the other two though? Stranger things have happened...

Belfast might have one too many players than chairs when the music stops. Would Craig Peacock be a target? Colin Shields tried Sheffield once before and it didn’t work. Also Shields has a business in Belfast, so that’s not going to happen.

Cardiff, like Sheffield, need to add British talent to their roster. Maybe Davies could be heading back there?. A shame, really, as Thompson is a big fan of Mark Richardson. Richardson or Batch? No, I can’t see any local lads leaving Cardiff. After all those years in the Big Blue tent, they aren’t going to pack their bags and leave now they are in a brand new building.

If you were looking at D men, only Davey Phillips would be added to the Richardson and Batch list.

Remember Thompson’s protégé in Coventry? Ross Venus? If so, remember where you heard it first.

What if Thompson threw the curve ball and went with a British goalie? No, not Ben Bowns - can’t see him leaving Wales. How about Stephen Murphy? Is it as strange as it seems? We have already said that Belfast might have one too many Brits. Giants’ new coach has the luxury of an extra import. Could he bring in an import to replace Murphy? Where does the experienced Brit go then? Would he be happy as a bit-part player in Belfast and would the Giants want to pay that salary for the best back-up in the league?

The more you think about it, the more options are out there. Interesting what Thompson’s thoughts will be.

The Steelers head coach is presently in Rockford, USA, with the AHL franchise. Part coaching, part scouting trip. Before leaving, Thompson confirmed that Messrs Pinc, Stromberg and Moyer wouldn’t be returning next season.

Three top blokes, all different and all bought into being Steelers. So many knocked Pinc but his performances in Nottingham, Manchester, Belfast and Fife certainly helped the Steelers win that title.

Stromberg was one of the great characters. We saw signs of how good he was a few years ago. At 41, going on 42, Thompson couldn’t take that risk on a sweet Conny return. A shame because what a good bloke and skilled player he was.

Russ Moyer played through pain and injury all year, especially the last few weeks.

I saw the clubs physios work their magic on him before almost every game. He could hardly walk in Fife for the last league game. They patched him up, fixed him and he delivered for us. I can’t thank them enough for all they did for us. Great players, even better blokes. Thank you all.

I’m sure you were all happy on Tuesday, mind you.

Levi Nelson for two more years. He is one of those players that when he is on the puck, you automatically slide to the edge of your seat. Nelson and Dowd have chemistry. Welcome home Levi.