Paul Thompson yesterday shocked the British Ice Hockey world, adding ex Coventry Blaze and Panthers forward Chris Lawrence to his roster.
Publicly announcing, the addition as “an initial short-term move” the Sheffield coach has pulled off a potential masterstroke with the signing. Whilst other clubs pondered, and hesitated (and they did) Thompson dived in and secured his man. Giving Lawrence the chance to prove to the Elite League, that he is no one season wonder after a pretty disastrous time in Coventry.
As much as Panthers fans may reject the notion, Lawrence was well thought of in Nottingham. Late December 2014 Nottingham coach Corey Neilson, said of the 6′ 4 forward “That kid is sensational, the stuff he can do with the puck – he’s got the hands and is the complete package”
Blaze fans may well point to the return of 1 point in his 9 games with the club, and this is something Thompson will obviously be aware of. But the Sheffield boss will also be acutely aware that some players just don’t move well. Some struggle with new systems, some don’t like their new city, the list can go and on. But Thompson will also be well aware, of the age old adage “You don’t become a bad player overnight”
Some players, for a variety of different reasons just don’t gel well into new surroundings. Lawrence presumably being one of the Blazes highest earners, was the one to bite the bullet first after the disappointing start to the season. It could presumably have been any one from three or four. But it was Lawrence who departed, something, somewhat ironically that has potentially worked in Thompson and Sheffield’s favour.
There are questions over Lawrence’s ‘languid’ style of play. Neilson again was quoted with reference to this “We had a sit down with him and said ‘you’ve got to be better, got to get into shape” Neilson went on “He’s a kid who’s a bit aloof but he’s also a competitor” Aloof may well be a little harsh for the Toronto born Lawrence. At times maybe a little distant, but always respectful and courteous.
Chris Lawrence at Kalamazoo Wings, nothing aloof about this!
The Coventry Blaze certainly didn’t see the best of Lawrence, and rarely, if ever, saw the competitive edge Neilson refers to, which was a huge frustration to fans, the club and the player himself.
However, had there not been a University deal offered to him in Coventry, he may well still be on the ice week in, week out in Nottingham, as opposed to preparing to wear the bright Orange of the Steelers and lining up against his former club on Saturday evening. Neilson is thought to have wanted to keep Lawrence for a second season.
Thompson has publicly admitted, he has injury concerns. The intense preparation, travelling, practice and game time against the best in the CHL will have certainly been a strain, coupled with the gruelling Elite League schedule and things take their toll. Bodies begin to hurt and the aches and strains begin to show.
The Yorkshire club now face 9 games in the next 18 days, including a double-header in Belfast (Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th October) immediately followed by a third game at home on the Sunday to Manchester Storm on the Sunday. That is a tough schedule by anyone’s standards, to compare, Nottingham and Cardiff both play just 6 games in this period.
Paul Thompson and his Sheffield Steelers certainly need some depth, and the addition of an emotionally hurt, but brooding Chris Lawrence could well be a masterstroke, however Thompson can only open the door, its down to Lawrence to stand up and march through it.