Back in January, when Fife Flyers slumped to the bottom of the Elite League table, some fans were questioning whether Todd Dutiaume was the right man to take the club forward.
The head coach himself even admitted he started doubting himself as the team stumbled from one defeat to the next and a landmark 75th anniversary season looked set to end in a damb squib.
But after overseeing one of the club’s greatest ever comebacks, guiding the side from last place to the play-off finals in the space of two stunning months of hockey, faith has been restored, both among the support, and in Dutiaume’s own mind, that he can succeed in the Flyers hot seat.
And when the offer was made to return for a 10th year in charge, and a 16th season in total since joining Fife as a player in 1999, it was not a difficult decision for the long-serving Canadian to make.
“I’m delighted to be back, and hopefully the fans are happy too,” he said.
“I know at the start of last season things were difficult and you can get down and start doubting yourself.
“But all I’ve had in the past two weeks since the season ended is lots of positive feedback from people walking around town.
“They’re saying they really enjoyed the hockey in the second half of the season and there are a lot of new people going to games. It’s nice for me to see the team appreciated like that.”
The current positivity is in stark contrast to the lows of the first half of the season when Dutiaume and his players came under some heavy criticism, although the coach never considered quitting.
“I wouldn’t want to turn tail and run away from a difficult situation,” he said. “We just went into ourselves and said the only opinion that mattered to us as a team was what we were thinking in the dressing room.
“That made us closer as a group – and helped us find a way to get results. We turned a negative thing into a positive, which was a turning point because a lot of guys were really down on themselves.
“There’s nothing wrong with criticism – but we like it to be constructive,” he said.
“There’s a small group you’ll never satisfy but most people have really responded well to our success – you saw that with our crowds at the end of the season.
“When the team is successful this place is buzzing – we just need to find a way to continue that success, which is something you relish as a coach and player.”
Far from being satisfied with last season’s run to the play-off finals, Dutiaume is now keen to work alongside returning associate coach Danny Stewart to take the Kirkcaldy club to the next level.
“We’ve had a very successful last couple of months, but by no means am I viewing that along the same lines as winning silverware,” he stressed.
“We showed we can compete with every team in the league on any given night, and that we belonged in the play-off finals weekend by giving a good account of ourselves and losing by one goal to the league champions.
“The next step I want this club to take is moving up table and competing for silverare.
“That will be a difficult challenge – there are some teams who have been in this league for many years who have never won anything.
“But this club has a long and proud tradition of winning, and the people that support us are hungry for it.”
Standing between Flyers and EIHL silverware are clubs with superior resources such as Nottingham, Belfast and Sheffield – but Dutiaume insists money isn’t everything.
“Big budgets don’t always mean success,” he said.
“A lot goes into building a team and we’d like to think that, with the right squad, we can compete with these big budget teams.
“It’s just more of a challenge for us to find creative ways to win hockey games.”
Key to Dutiaume’s plans for success next season is retaining a core of last season’s team, which he is hopeful he can do.
“If we can attract a core of guys back then we have a recipe for success,” he said. “It all hangs on whether these guys want to come back but we’ve had positive discussions.
“Normally, imports are ready to head home as soon as the final whistle goes but a lot of these guys extended their stay by an extra week or two.
“Guys wanted to stick around and that says something about how tight the group was, and how well they were treated here.”
Dutiaume has given as much to the club as he received in return over the past 15 years. It would be fitting if he could realise his ambition and lead the side to silverware.