Fife Flyers - time for changes as losses stack up

Fife Flyers logo large hi-res
Fife Flyers logo large hi-res

As collapses go, this was as spectacular as it was worrying.

Fife Flyers were 4-0 up and out of sight having utterly dominated Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday.

They were back to playing the style of hockey which garnered four wins in September. The points were in the bag.

And then came a third period collapse which simply underlined the fragility of this shell-shocked team.

Caps grabbed a goal and then a lightning double - 4-0 became 4-3 and Fife simply drowned in doubt and indecision. The tent folded. This cannot go on.

To borrow a lyric from Bob Dylan - it’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

A team that ought to have been back on the bus celebrating halting a five-game losing streak, made the long journey home reflecting on where it goes from here.

All the positives from their performance - and there were many - were simply swept out of the rink along with the discarded coffee cups.

Perhaps the ONLY positive to come from defeat is the fact that a win might well have been allowed to paper over the cracks. That shield was ripped out of their hands the moment Paul Zanette struck with the winner in sudden death overtime.

Every single team in the league is finding ways of winning games while Flyers are discovering news ways of throwing points down the drain.

You can see the pressure wrapping itself round the bench, the dressing room, the coaching staff and the players. Unless decisive action is taken, it will only intensify and ultimately suffocate the entire season.

The fans are beyond frustrated. Worse - some have given up. The boos even soured a strip auction for charity. It cannot go on like this.

After Saturday’s woeful 4-1 home loss to Dundee, Fife needed to respond, and they did.

The guys skated like their jobs were on they line - probably because they were.

An opening period blitz of 19 shots saw them swamp Caps, and made netminder Carson Chubak work hard for his pay cheque. Early strikes from Shayne Stockton and then a fine goal from a persevering Stephen Gunn cracked open the game within seven minutes.

Period two was much the same. Caps tightened up, but Fife held the momentum - they looked good, worked hard round the net, and there was a sense of urgency to their game which saw them extend their lead to 4-0 thanks to strikes from Danny Stewart -a rare Fife powerplay goal - and Phil Paquet.

It was tousy stuff too as Caps tried to force a response, challenging players and snarling every now and then.

The tireless Michael Dorr caught Johnson with an accidental high sticks early on, and Caps nursed a grudge towards him all night, culminating in a fight at the first buzzer as he and Ryan Hayes went toe to toe in a tasty scrap.

Dorr’s game ended late in the third after he and Kyle Bigos tangled on the plexi, with the Caps defenceman clearly catching him high in the chest with his stick. Dorr had to be helped to the dressing-room. DOPS may want to take a close look at Bigos’ ugly play.

There was more old-time hockey as Caps noised up the Fife bench after half an hour. Dorr was again grabbed by his jersey, this time by Matt Fleming, while Kyle Flemington motioned to to Tommy Muir to drop the gloves and dance.

The Fifer agreed, but was set upon even before he could prepare - a cheap move by Flemington, with both players sitting five for fighting.

Amid it all, Fife held a solid and frankly, game-winning 4-0 lead. All they had to do was close out the game.

Jacob Johnston’s opener for Caps at 38:15 offered no hint of what was to come in the third, but when he and Trevor Gerling netted inside 60 seconds early in the final period, the ship didn’t start to list. It sunk.

Flyers weathered some intense pressure, came back and created chances, but they were clearly in meltdown, summed up by one crazy moment as all hell broke loose around David Brown’s net and, with the puck out of control, Fife’s entire line simply piled on top of the netminder to keep it out. Desperate stuff.

The game-tying goal from Taylor Dickin at 55:13 was inevitable, as was the overtime collapse as Zanette netted on the powerplay to claim a win even the most strident Caps fan would not have expected an hour earlier.

So what now for Fife?

This was meant to be the season they challenged. Instead they are now stacking the losses. Changes have to be made and they have to decisive. Doing nothing is simply not an option.

There seems to be no appetite for a coaching change - despite the increasing pressure from the stands and a huge amount of negativity across social media - and it’s worth noting that Flyers’ management team has never had to make such a move or appoint from outwith since it took over in 1996.

So that turns the spotlight firmly on the dressing-room.

The fans want a gritty defenceman - someone with a bit of a rep who will get stuck in when the going gets tough.

Fife are the only side to have resisted going down the enforcer road this season. Seven weeks in, there’s a clear need for a tough guy - not a fighting machine, but someone whose presence simply deters and protects, and lightens the load on guys like Rioux, Haines and Pacquet who are all slogging their guts out. Someone who is also different to Rioux, Haines and Pacquet too.

And they need a netminding change.

David Brown has struggled between the pipes. It’s clearly not working.

He isn’t the only reason Fife are losing games - there is collective responsibility at play here - but the foundations are simply too shaky to make any progress.

And they need to look at the ‘sameness’ across the team and perhaps shake it up with the addition of a character; a player who stands out; a player who has the grit and guile to transform the tightest of games; a player who not only can light up a game, but turn it round. The very sort they needed on Sunday to stop it all caving in.

Find someone in that mould and guys like Caig , Dorr and Lee ought to really ignite.

Someone like Paul O’Connell, the leader and skipper of Irish rugby whose career was ended through injury midway through the World Cup. His departure was been mourned by fans and players alike.

There’s a video clip of him addressing his team at half-time. The language is beyond industrial but his message is crystal clear.

‘’Did you scare anyone?’’ he asks the dressing room. ‘’Did you put the fear of God into anyone?’’

Flyers need to find a Paul O’Connell. They need to find him quick.

They head to Manchester on Saturday and return home to face Braehead on Sunday.

Six defeats cannot become seven and eight, otherwise it will be dark. Very dark.