Former linemates Davey Phillips and Ben O’Connor may be going their separate ways - but they are certainly together on one thing: the importance of Mark Matheson to the new-look Sheffield Steelers’ team.
Matheson is the only import left of the club’s books after a Summer of comings and goings.
He swept the board last year, when it came to personal accolades.
And he will have a huge task next season on reaching his own highs of last year while helping bed in the new talent.
O’Connor has left Steelers for Swedish side Leksands IF (whom Sheffield play on August 11 and 12 in friendlies.) But he has warm words of recognition for the Canadian.
“Everybody can see what he does on the ice and he’s great in the room too. As an older guy he has experience and you can see that every time he carries the puck up the ice. He is always on the puck and what he does can determine the flow of a game. He is a big part of the team.
“For Thommo to have re-signed him is huge. I know he loved his time in Sheffield and so did his family. It is important to fit in and he definitely did, so for him it was an easy decision to return. It was good to watch him in practice every day, that guy is something special.”
Phillips, who will continue his Steeler journey again next season, is a fan of Matheson: “He’s excellent, I love watching him, the way he is cool and calm and doesn’t chuck the puck away” he said.
“He finds a way to hold on to the puck that extra second until something starts to open up.
“His strength is my weakness and I try to pick bits from his game. He is so cool and silky it looks easy but it’s not.
“I am trying to put it in my own game, but it’s easier said than done.
“A lot of it is what is in your head, he is mentally strong, relaxed and always cool in possession of the puck.
“Sometimes he’s pretty quiet but if something has got to be said, he’ll say it.
“He’s very positive and great to be around.”
Phillips said he was not surprised by the big turnaround in player personnel.
He said he’d expected it after “coming away at the end of the season with no trophies.”
The d-man said: “It is the nature of the sport, there is always a turnover of players in ice hockey, especially if you don’t win trophies. I have seen it happen, a lot.
“We fell short and we will be trying to improve on that, obviously, but so are the other teams in our league.”