Reasons To Be Grateful

Cat’s Whiskers TV presenter Jono Bullard examines the Sheffield Steelers dismissal of Head Coach Doug Christiansen and why patience really is a virtue.

We Nottingham Panthers fans should be grateful for the owners & management team that we have. It would have been all too easy for them to listen to the fan base that was calling for Corey Neilson’s head during his early years as coach of the team. Thankfully, they stuck with him, Neilson proved many of the fan-base (including me) wrong and the rest, as they say, is history.
In situations like that you trust the owners of the business to make those decisions.

What’s my point? Unless you’ve been living under a rock since last night you’ll know that the Sheffield Steelers relieved coach Doug Christiansen of his duties yesterday evening. After coming in with a huge fanfare in April 2013 he finds himself cast aside just ten months later. Steelers owner Tony Smith explained his decision on BBC Radio Sheffield.

It’s interesting to hear Smith say that it isn’t a knee-jerk reaction; however if this was a carefully considered act that was taken after some time and thought then surely you’d expect a permanent replacement to be lined up? Maybe it was just a co-incidence that the axe fell after two defeats by their biggest rivals.

Smith also speaks of disappointment at not challenging for the league which is fair comment, however there are eight EIHL coaches in exactly the same position being at least 18 points behind run away leaders Belfast Giants. I would suggest that there are at least four head coaches in the Elite League who would happily swap places with the Steelers right now.

He also says that the Steelers have ‘lost their identity’ which is a subject that has come to the fore on Steeltalk, where several posts mention the same and that they would like to go back to being ‘brash Steelers’ playing exciting & entertaining hockey with a top quality coach & players. As a Nottingham Forest fan I’m old enough to remember the club winning two European Cups and would love those days to return, however realistically I know they will not. Football has moved on since those days, as has British hockey. It’s now a very different league to the one when Tommy Plommer & Tim Cranston were playing in Sheffield and while I can empathise with fans wanting the style of those days to return, realistically it’s just not going to happen.

There was another interesting post on Steeltalk after Wednesday night’s game where the poster had copied and pasted comments from last season’s Challenge Cup Final thread after then coach Ryan Finnerty’s Steelers lost to Panthers. The comments were almost identical to what was being written after Wednesday night’s loss. Therefore if nothing has changed in a year with different teams and two coaches with completely different styles, then maybe the problems within the club are a little more deep rooted?

Whatever the reasons I personally find this a very strange turn of events. For a coach whose team lie 3rd in the league, still in the cup and with just as much chance of the play-offs as everyone else, to be sacked smacks of desperation. We all know that the Steelers fan-base has very high (some would say unrealistic) expectations, but to get rid of a seasoned coach with just two months of the season left is odd. With Steve Goertzen taking over in the short term it will be interesting to see who gets the role. My money would be on Gerard Adams taking the position, but with the best will in the world I fail to see how that would be an improvement on Doug Christiansen.

In conclusion I think the Steelers have made a huge mistake. I feel stability is the answer as the Panthers have proved, because if they had listened and acted on the fans wishes regarding Corey Neilson just a few short years ago, I could have been writing all the above about them.

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