Flyers defenceman Isaacs benefits from spell up front

James Isaacs, Fife Flyers. Pic: Steve Gunn
James Isaacs, Fife Flyers. Pic: Steve Gunn

Fife Flyers defenceman James Isaacs hopes that recent his stint up front has made him a better player.

Isaacs returned to his natural position at the weekend after spending a large chunk of the season as an unorthodox forward covering for injuries.

And the 27-year-old Canadian-British dual national reckons he how has a greater appreciation of the overall game, and of the role of forwards.

“It’s nice being back to defence, but I really enjoyed it up front and I learned a lot,” he told the Press.

“Some of the things that forwards would do that you hated, you realise they are actually unavoidable at times.

“I’ve come back to defence with a bit more of an open mind and tried to put the pucks in better spots for the forwards.

“I’ve learned more about the game of hockey in general and hopefully that will make me a better player.”

Isaacs admitted that it took him a few shifts to readjust to defence again.

“I realised I haven’t skated backwards in a while!” he said. “It’s actually amazing how little you skate backwards as a forward.

“The first game back in defence was a bit of an adjustment – just with timing and looking at two-on-ones and one-on-ones again – but once Sunday came around I felt a lot more comfortable back there again.”

As a forward, Isaacs gained praise from his coaches, and fans alike, for his hard-working, energetic displays on the third line. All that was missing was a goal.

“I had quite a few close chances but sometimes they just don’t go in,” he said. “It is what it is, and I’m not stressing about it.

“I try to worry more about my plus-minus and my defensive play more than my offensive play. Hopefully it will come, but if not, it’s no big deal.

“Maybe if my role was to score goals I might’ve cheated a bit more!

“But it was a simple third line checking role. I tried to just keep going in straight lines, dump the puck in and finish my checks.

“I’m a shut-down D-man, and I was a shut-down forward so there were similarities. There was a bit more skating, and a bit more responsibility on face-offs, but I enjoyed it and learned from it.

Isaacs admitted it was a boost to receive Twitter notifications from fans praising his work up front, adding: “The fans here just appreciate hard work and when you’re a third line checker that’s the only thing you really need to do.”

Isaacs, who returned to the club after a failed move to the ECHL, has had to fight for a permanent spot in the Flyers roster after initally being drafted as an extra import providing temporary injury cover.

However, his performances have now earned him a deal until the end of the season, taking David Turon’s place on the blueline.

“I knew the situation when I left,” he said. “It was a gamble , whether it worked out or not, I guess now it did, but for a time it wasn’t.

“You’re always fighting for a job. If you’re not, you’re not playing as you should be. You always have to be looking over your shoulder because there’s always competition.

“Whether it’s for powerplay time or more ice time during a game you always have to be competing. That’s alway been in my nature.

“The fact I was able to play forward and D that maybe helped me stick around. I like it here, and it’s why it was easy to come back. I’m enjoying my time here.”