Ice hockey comment: Big question mark for Sheffield Steelers owner

What happens next at the Arena?
What happens next at the Arena?

Tom Barrasso has quietly gone about the giant task of undertaking a revolution at Sheffield Steelers.

He took over a confidence-sapped squad, systematically worked on every player, system and aspect, went on a crash-course of learning about a brand new League, and has ended up coaching a side capable of living with the best the UK can offer.

Over the next few weeks, Steelers fans will hope to see the team flower further, with an improved league position and a full-fledged assault on the Play Offs.

To end up with any silverware is a big ask when you consider the disorder and lack of conviction he inherited in the ranks.

But a question remains – and it just won’t go away.

Barrasso remains adamant that he will not even consider his future at in South Yorkshire until the season is over.

Owner Tony Smith wants him to stay, but has so far no eked out any sort of indication one way or another.

The coach is ambitious, and while he says he’s enjoyed working in the EIHL, harbours a dream to coach in the Russian top flight.

This leaves a problem of continuity.

Would Barrasso, in the remaining weeks of the season, start to talk to players about Steelers retaining their services? Would he be scouting new players, possibly from opposition EIHL teams, with a view to Summer overtures and multi-year recruitment? Will he be banging on Smith’s door about increasing player budgets?

All of that may, or may not, start to happen soon, behind the scenes at the House of Steel. 

It did under previous coaches – and was one reason why Sheffield has competed at the top domestic level and kept core groups of skaters together.

The worst case scenario is that little forward-planning is completed, Barrasso lands the job of his dreams in the KHL, and a new Sheffield coach/manager has to start from scratch at some point in the Summer of 2019.

It is certainly a head-scratcher for Smith, who will be wanting to avoid a mid-table position in next year’s league.

Best of luck, Tony!