Is Chris Lawrence the unlikely answer to our needs? When the 6’4 lanky, awkward looking forward arrived in Sheffield many didn’t think so. A short term injury replacement, it seemed. Well why would it be anything else after Lawrence had totalled just one assist in nine games with Coventry Blaze.
Six games in and Lawrence had found five goals, three game winners. Maybe he stays another week whilst we are short. A week later with Guillaume Desbiens in the line-up Steelers were at full strength – Lawrence sat against his former Blaze side, was that the writing on the wall? Think how he must have felt the next day when he looked down at his phone and saw the name Paul Thompson flashing – was this the dreaded, goodbye call?
“You’re playing tomorrow” was the message from Thompson, referring to the game in Nottingham last Sunday against Panthers - “show me what you have, make it impossible for me to drop you”
The big fella did just that, playing in his natural centre position alongside Nelson and Dowd. Lawrence hardly lost a face off all night, he dominated. Lawrence is a different player to the one that joined from Blaze and that’s down to confidence. Lawrence is also something different to what we’ve got. He also brings size – something the other centres don’t have. The Steelers side on Sunday looked a different outfit with Lawrence and Desbiens, both big men.
Steelers haven’t the natural depth of Nottingham or a Belfast, therefore carrying a spare import forward is something owner Tony Smith is prepared to offer to his coach. Somehow I don’t think Lawrence will be the spare forward; he is on his way to be one of the “written in stone” guys. If that’s so then he has earned his spot and you have to tip your hat to him for doing that.
New signing Desbiens looks like a proper player. He also carries himself well, looks like a bloke, talks like a bloke and as Cal Tanaka found out last Friday he plays like a bloke.
Unfortunately Mike Duco didn’t deliver what had been hoped for. It’s only two games in but you get the feeling Desbiens will. Thompson wanted his Sylvain Cloutier character, his go-to Steve Goertzen – maybe he has found him.
In the summer when Fredrik Vestberg was announced there was very little excitement in fact a few of the fan base were underwhelmed as they hoped for some swash buckling ex NHL’er. How times have changed. Now he’s considered one of the club’s most dependable player and an outstanding penalty killer and power-play. I reliable centre whether playing with Fretter and Roy on the first line or tightening up the back end on a defensive third unit. He hasn’t taken a penalty minute yet – have you seen anyone get close enough to hit him?
Vestberg has also scored nine valuable goals including the outstanding 5 on 3 power-play strike in Nottingham last Sunday. Vestberg is the gentleman of the Steelers side “I feel like apologising when I swear in front of him” Jonathan Phillips told me. Fred just goes about his business efficiently, smartly and right now outstandingly well. Things look differently than they did a week ago, right?
Two more wins this weekend wouldn’t go amiss either.
Coventry though showed against the Steelers last Friday that they are on their way back after a poor start. 24 hours after their last minute defeat to us in Sheffield they turned it around beating second place Cardiff 4-1.
Saturday’s game in the Sky Dome is their chance of redemption.
Back at the Arena on Sunday (5pm) see the Steelers take on the Fife Flyers for the first time this season – Flyers are also our Challenge Cup quarter final opponents so it will be good to get a first look at them in our big building.
Four points last weekend have given the Steelers not only confidence but momentum.
This weekend is the perfect opportunity to build on that and put a run together in order to challenge leaders Nottingham.
They play seven of their next 10 games on the road.
Lets see where we stand in late December, Panthers!