Christmas spirit may be in short supply at Fife Flyers after a wretched run of results, but there is a determination to put things right over the festive period and beyond.
That was the message from within the home dressing room at Fife Ice Arena this week as the wounded Elite League club reflects on a period of instability and poor form.
Injuries to key players have crippled the side, and coincided with a run of just one victory from eight games, and just three points from a possible 16 - a sequence has resulted in Flyers dropping from a strong position in both the EIHL and Gardiner Conference, to now playing catch-up on some of their rivals.
Head coach Todd Dutiaume’s search for reinforcements have also been hampered by what he described as a ‘barren’ transfer market that is only just showing signs of coming to life.
However, he insisted that much hard work is taking place behind the scenes to turn the season around, and urged everyone to remain positive ahead of pivotal matches away to Braehead Clan tomorrow (Friday) and home to Edinburgh Capitals on Boxing Day.
“We’re in a bit of a low right now but we’re trying to stay positive with these guys,” Dutiaume told the Press.
“I want people to know we’re absolutely committed to fixing it - and we will get better - but this isn’t a quick fix.
“We need guys healthy, and we need a bit of new blood and injection of life into the line-up, but by no means is that the saviour.
“It’s getting these guys believing in themselves and getting back to business.
“I’d really like a run where we get our whole line-up back and get this team back to some stability and continuity because it’s been a trying season so far.”
Dutiaume stressed that the recent spate of injuries suffered in the forward department have provided a significant challenge for the team to overcome, particularly on the powerplay, where Flyers are currently 0/23 after previously laying claim to the second best PP unit in the country.
“Every week we’re looking at different lines, guys playing in different position, the powerplay getting jumbled around - there’s no consistency and that’s tough for players to adapt to,” he said.
“That’s not making excuses but we lose probably our one of our top players, Shayne Stockton, to a season-ending injury, we lose Ryan Dingle for three weeks, Justin Fox for a couple of weeks, Matt Sisca for a week, and now Sebastian Thinel to a broken hand.
“That’s a lot of your firepower – and a big part of your team.
“On top of the defensive injuries we had early in the season, we only have a couple of imports who have played every week for us. Injuries this year have played a big part, and it’s hurt us.
“I can’t say this is the reason we’re losing and otherwise we’d be perfect because we are inconsistent and we have guys making bad choices at times.
“I’m very well aware of the team I have and it’s capabilties and limitations but it’s times like this you get a measure of what type of player you have – whether they make excuses or chomp their teeth down on the bit and got for it.”
Supporters have expressed their anger and frustration with recent results on social media and Dutiuame urged them to consider the impact on his players.
“Right now, I know there is a negative vibe around the team,” he said. “They are struggling with the heat that they are taking.
“I’m here to absorb that, but it affects guys. I never played in the era of social media and I don’t engage with it, but I can’t tell people not to go on it because it’s a big part of their lives.
“I agree with people coming to a game, paying their money, voicing their displeasure and getting the whole experience from a match night.
“But I’m not sure that the £16 gives anyone licence to abuse people all week.
“These guys are human beings - they may not be getting results right now but I’d like to think they are trying their best.
“It’s important that we recognise that, and that’s why we try to do things like the late skates. They are regular people, doing a job.”
Flyers are hopeful that the hand injury picked up by Thinel in Manchester will only keep him out for a couple of weeks after tests showed only a small bone fracture.
Dutiaume remains hopeful of making additions to the squad sooner rather than later, but any new arrivals are not expected until after the Christmas period.
“It’s a tough time of year to bring in guys but the market is starting to loosen up a bit because it was barren,” he said.
“All we were getting sent was guys ineligible to play in the league. I realise that the time is now critical and we’re making positive strides.”