Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume insists there shouldn’t be an over-reaction to the recent poor form that has seen the team drift out of the conference race, and into the bottom half of the Elite League.
An eighth consecutive defeat to Braehaed Clan on Friday followed by back-to-back defeats to Dundee Stars completed a miserable weekend for the Kirkcaldy side, who have won just two of their last 10 fixtures.
A season that started with hopes of winning the Gardiner Conference is ending with Flyers fighting to avoid a bottom place finish in the division, and unsurprisingly there is a sense of disappointment among the fanbase.
However, Dutiaume stressed that injuries have played a significant factor, not only in Flyers’ abysmal head-to-head record against Clan, but in their overall campaign.
Flyers have only had a full roster available on a small number of occasions this season and are currently operating one import down with defenceman James Isaacs continuing to deputise as a makeshift forward to cover for an injury to Bryan Cameron.
“I don’t want to come across as making excuses, but one of the valid reasons we’ve struggled all year is the amount of injuries we’ve had,” Dutiaume said.
“Other teams have had injuries, but not as much as us. Part of not having that depth is I start overplaying guys, they’re exhausted, and it’s caught up with a number of them.
“It’s very difficult to maintain that level of intensity when you’ve been putting your all into a full season.
“At some point it will catch up with you, and we’re starting to see injuries now from overplaying.”
Dutiaume also admitted his Flyers side may be facing a ‘pyschological’ hurdle against Braehead that they must overcome in their final meeting of the season ahead of any potential match-up in the play-offs.
The weekend defeats to Dundee Stars, however, were particularly disappointing given the Taysiders’ struggles this season, although Dutiaume felt both games could have gone either way.
“Saturday night was a 3-3 game and we lost it on a broken stick play,” he said. “That’s not sign of a bad hockey club.
“These were two close hockey games, and anybody who says Dundee is not a good team is sadly mistaken.
“There should be a reaction to the weekend, but I don’t know if there should be an over-reaction.
“I know I’m an easy target, and that comes with my job, but we know what we’ve accomplished here.
“We’ve been up in third and fourth place for much of the year, and to get picked off because of a number of circumstances, it doesn’t make you a bad team, or a bad coach.
“It’s just a run of form, and there’s contributing factors to that.”
Flyers are sixth in the overall EIHL but with nine games left and only six points to eighth-placed Coventry, they still need points in the bag to avoid being dragged into a dogfight for a play-off spot.
“People are understandably unhappy and venting frustration, but we’re focusing on keeping a positive atmosphere in the room,” Dutiaume said.
“We want to finish off these final nine games with solid performances and we’re more than capable of putting it together.”
On Saturday Flyers travel to second-placed Belfast Giants before welcoming Sheffield Steelers to Fife Ice Arena on Sunday (6.30 p.m).