Standing in the Way – Sheffield Steeldogs 2013/14

Time for Banners On The Wall to look at another 2013/14 opponent for the Basingstoke Bison. Having looked at a couple of Southern sides, it’s time to head to God’s country and look at the opposition.

Name: Sheffield Steeldogs

Home Ice: Ice Sheffield

Position: 9th

Top scorer: Greg Wood; 25 goals + 38 assists = 63 points

Ticket details: http://www.sheffieldsteeldogs.co.uk/Tickets.aspx

Paul England (Man behind @SheffHockeyLive and Steeldogs fan)

This summer has been a fairly busy one for the Sheffield Steeldogs. Head Coach Andre Payette has been faced with a interesting decision on weather to keep the made in Sheffield policy going or to start looking elsewhere in order to change the fortunes of his struggling team.

One of the main questions that needed to be answered was would Payette himself commit to playing this season or drop to the bench and do the head coach job full time. Unfortunately he has decided to continue playing. From my point of view I would have preferred him to concentrate on coaching so we could bring another quality import in. On the subject of imports the signing of Lubomir Korhon for the next two seasons signals the Steeldogs intent to build a reasonable squad that can at least make the top 6 in the league. Lubo as he is known to the Steeldogs fans will set the league a light this season with his speed and goal scoring . The other interesting signing from my point of view is Greg Chambers. I really do like him and the fact we have tempted him to the Steeldogs in the first place has to be seen as big plus for the club. I really hope he is proves to be a successful addition to the team but I do have my doubts and I’m a little scared that he may well jump ship to another team halfway through the season. The other import we have is netminder Dalibor Sedlar. I’m expecting big things from him this year after he came in and did really well in the 2nd half of last season.

When you look at the team as a whole there are many players that stand out and could have really good season. Edgars Bebris is one player where there is a lot of expected. I would be hoping that he will be scoring between 18-25 goals this season. Out of the British Players you can look through the whole team and say that there is scoring power there. My own view is that despite having all this scoring power we need to stay out of the penalty box. If we do that then we could have a pretty good season. My big concern is our style of hockey that we play. I think we need to playing more free flowing flowing rather than the physical type of hockey we played last season. Overall I think we have decent team but time will tell weather we are good enough to compete in what is the strongest EPL in history.

The key for the Steeldogs is to have a good start. 7 out of there first 8 games are away from home. If we come out of that with 4 wins then we should be on for a decent season. My prediction is that we will finish in 6th place and make the play off quarter finals. As for the cup if I’m been honest we would do very well to make the semi finals. But as in the past there is always one team that surprises everyone and hopefully this season it will be the Steeldogs

Banners On The Wall

The Sheffield Steeldogs take a lot of flack. Some of this is entirely justified at times but at times I think EPL fans are guilty of focussing too much on the short term and not enough on the long term goals of Sheffield as an organisation. I don’t just mean in a longevity sense, Lord knows Telford’s efforts on that front are fantastic but in a playing sense.

There have been games where I have actively chastised Andre Payette’s side for how they have played. Make no mistake, when the Steeldogs come to your rink they owe you nothing in terms of how attractive their play is. The away team doesn’t owe you an entertaining game, they’re there to turn up and take the points away. The issue for me with the Steeldogs is the spirit in which they sometimes do it. We’ve all watched some boring hockey; anyone who watched the Rick Strachan coached Hull Stingrays will know what I mean but the Steeldogs came out at times last season and failed to string 2 passes together whilst running about chopping and hacking at people and playing like the Syracuse Bulldogs weren’t a work of fiction. The Bison fell into the trap of trying to play that game at times and lost because of it.

The thing is though having sat down and looked at the Dogs’ roster this off season as they put it together, it all started to click in my head what I think they’re trying to do. The thing is the plan requires patience, something that is traditionally in short supply in sports. There are teams in the EPL that are playing to win now, you could argue the Bison are one of them but the Steeldogs are developing now to try and dominate in the future. Stick with me on this one.

The import corps for the Steeldogs is decent this season. What you think of him aside, Payette can still contribute to some degree on the ice (he always manages to score just after I’ve complained about him) but the other three imports are of good quality. Lubomir Korhon averaged 1.5 points per game after joining just before the half way mark of the season. His eye for goal and his experience will always been a boon. Dalibor Sedlar in net for the Dogs is of the quality to be able to steal the odd game even if arguably there are better British netminders in the league. Greg Chambers requires no real introduction here and whatever you think of him, he will add significant offensive output to Sheffield who scored the second fewest goals in the EPL last term.

The thing with imports is they will come and go but the bulk of this team is young and still very much on the upswing. If you take out the imports and academy players, the average age of this team is around 25. If you include the academy players it lowers to 22. This is a good core that can play, develop and grow together for a long time and start to make an impact in this league.

Greg Wood has been around for ever but is only 26 and the captain has developed into a top tier British forward at EPL level being able to go over a point per game. He’s become a real centrepiece of the attack for Andre Payette alongside Edgers Bebris who will be looking to improve on his 24 goals from last season.

There’s plenty of pluck and grit in the forward lines as well from Ashley Calvert, Craig Elliot and Lloyd Gibson. The defence, led by Steve Duncombe and Ben Morgan has an average age of 25 and are now battled hardened after a couple of years together in the league. With talent like Thomas Barry and Lyndon Taylor waiting in the wings as well, the team is in good stead for the future.

What’s to come is all well and good, can the Steeldogs compete now? The answer to that question is probably not to the level their fans would want them to. I don’t feel a repeat of their 3rd place finish in 2011/12 is on the cards. That was a unique set of circumstances led by arguably the finest British netminder of his generation. For my money the Steeldogs will be scrapping for the final playoff spots because I don’t think they are there yet. This team has more growing to do. I have no doubt that they will continue to use their brawn but hopefully their brains more this season as well. I am certain that the future is bright in Sheffield. The present however could be best described as cloudy with a chance of sun.

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