Head coach Paul Thompson returned from his six-day study trip to American Hockey league side Rockford on Monday – exhausted, yet energised and ready to give the ball a kick as the Steelers try and become the first club to win three league championships in a row.
First on the Thompson agenda is to try and find out if Messrs Vestberg and Coyle will be returning. Both have some personal issues back home – both expected to give an answer in the next couple of weeks.
Next is Colton Fretter. Thompson loves Fretter; he was on for 30 goals when injury struck and this was playing injured during the time he was on the ice. Does Thompson stick with his go-to guy and hope the summer lay-off clears up Fretter’s groin problems, or does he move on? Thank Fretter for what he has done and try to find the “New” Fretter? Fretter is quality, though - would you want him coming back into your building to haunt you?
Easy decision for us – as we don’t have to make it. It’s a big summer call for Thompson, though.
More news on the Steelers’ starting goalie could be known in the next two weeks as well. It’s probably the biggest signing the club will make in terms of importance. A genuine number one starting goalie is the most crucial of signings. The 75 per cent play rate demanded by the immigration department for work permits has narrowed down the amount of goalies available. Only three NHL goalies qualified for work permits last year; so finding an AHL or ECHL starter is getting more difficult year after year.
Steelers’ new British signing is getting closer to being announced, I’m told. That’s an important cog in the wheel, as we touched on last week, as if the club can’t find a suitable Hewitt replacement the whole four line plan goes out of the window. It will come off though, I am confident and the four line Steelers will be on show come August.
Whilst in the States, Thompson took three American League games in. He made contact with various coaches and agents who were present at the matches. One was against Grand Rapids, whose assistant coach is Ben Simon. One of the problems we have over here is that we don’t see the players we sign, not in person. How can we? The majority are playing when we are! This trip for Thompson has given him a clear overview of the standard at the American league level.
Contact has been made with one player that Thompson was very impressed with on his trip – those guys, however, will only make their plans for next season once their play off campaign has ended, Rockford’s hasn’t started yet.
The Steelers will head to Zurich in early May for the Champions League draw. It will then take a further 10 days before the fixtures are announced and confirmed by the CHL. The period that the four CHL games (two home and two away) will take place is between August 20 and September 4.
The Elite league season will start a week later this coming year and conclude a week later as well - the first important date, however, in Steeler fans’ diaries should be the end of this month as that will be the first cut-off date for cheaper price season tickets.
For existing season ticket holders it also means its the last date that you can reserve your seat.