DAN Ceman has predicted a brighter future for Fife Flyers after the club finished its first Elite League season bottom of the pile.
Flyers’ troubled campaign came to a close with two more defeats to derby rivals Dundee Stars and Edinburgh Capitals at the weekend.
While the top eight teams gear up for the play-offs Flyers are left to reflect on the highs and lows of their EIHL rookie season.
And club captain Ceman, who missed out on the final weekend of action with a shoulder injury, reckons Fife’s fortunes will improve.
“The organisation is only going to go upwards from here,” he told SportsPress. “There’s no question in my mind that this will be a team to be reckoned with.
“It will always be tough to get up there with the stadium teams because they don’t have those kind of finances to pull in, but the depth of British players here and the potential that comes with the consistent fan base, there’s no other team in their current budget level that can match that.
“The first half of the season won’t happen again next year, and the steps the local Brits have made this year will stand them in good stead.
“The first year is a huge learning curve – I went through it with the Dundee team last year.
“The Brits here are playing extremely good hockey so they will start a stronger team next year.
“There’s potential for there to be a huge improvement next year without question.”
Injury meant Ceman’s influence was limited to coaching in the closing weeks of the season – a career-path he now intends to get back on following his sacking from Dundee earlier in the season.
“The most enjoyment I get out of the game right now is in coaching, and I’ve enjoyed helping out here,” he said.
“Next year, I’m hoping to get a coaching position, but it’s way too early to know.
“It’s going to be a typical pro hockey off-season where I just wait and see what comes up.
“A full-time head coach position would be my first priority, but if that didn’t arise I’d love to be a player-coach again.
“Most of my focus and enjoyment right now comes from trying to build a team, and helping make guys better.
“Also, I’m not getting any younger so playing just gets harder and harder. A whole year takes its toll on the body.
“I still get a great buzz out of playing – and I’d be happy to continue – but coaching is my priority.
“Hopefully that will be my career at whatever level it works out at.”
Ceman was speaking after the club’s final home match of the season against Dundee, which saw player-coach Todd Dutiaume attend his first match since the tragic death of his wife Kelly and their unborn twins.
“A big theme before the game was to go out and play for Dutes,” Ceman revealed.
“This team’s been through a lot this year in general, and we knew Dutes was going to be here.
“If there was any game we wanted to try as hard as possible to win, it was this game.
“You could see the guys rose to the occasion and right from the start they gave it their all.
“They were playing on fumes towards the end, and just had nothing left in the tank, but they were still giving all they had.
“I can’t say enough about the effort level and heart on this team.”