THE DUST is only just settling on a dramatic end to the Elite Ice Hockey League season, but Fife Flyers have already started preparing for next term.
The Kirkcaldy club is keen to retain the core of the team that narrowly missed out on the play-off finals weekend, and talks have already taken place with the majority of the squad.
The Press understands that assistant player-coach Danny Stewart has already agreed to return next season, although Todd Dutiaume, the club’s head coach for the past eight years, will take more time to decide his future as he recovers from a broken kneecap.
The door, however, is likely to remain open for the soon-to-be 40-year-old to return in some capacity, whether it be coaching, playing - or both.
Steven McAlpine is the only player to have informed the club that he will not return, having accepted a job offer in Norway.
Dutiaume said: “We’ve had our end of season meetings with guys.
“We thanked them for their efforts and let guys know where the club stands.
“We’re hoping we can build next season around the core of guys we had this year.
“Steven McAlpine won’t be coming back but so far nobody else has given us a ‘no’ - and we’re delighted with that.
“If we can keep our core it will not only make our job easier, it will give the club a boost.
“People liked what they saw this year, and we had good characters in the room.
“If we can build on that I’m sure we’ll be able to put together a very competitive team.”
Dutiaume’s efforts in steering Flyers to joint sixth in the Elite League table, and within a goal of the play-off finals, was recognised when he was named as a runner-up in the EIHL Coach of the Year award.
“People had written us off in December but we battled back and ended up having a quite successful year for the club,” he said.
“We’re kicking ourselves for not picking up a point here or there that could have won us the division - but every club could be saying that.
“As far as coaching recognition goes, I’ve got to give Danny a lot of credit - we work very well together and we both have our strong points.
“I think we’ve developed each other as coaches.”
One of the most pleasing aspects of the season for Dutiaume was the contribution of the local British players he has worked with since the SNL days.
“A lot of people had written off our SNL players and thought everybody needed clearing out,” he said.
“Last year was very tough on them, and it was hard on their pride and confidence.
“But they came back this season and they are all keeping up with the speed.
“They matched Nottingham in a two-legged play-off game and those guys won a treble.
“It’s great credit to our local guys, and also to the professionalism of our imports, who have really helped develop them this year.”
* TWO Flyers players have been fined by the Elite League disciplinary committee following comments made on social media. Jason Pitton and Josh Scoon were deemed to have broken the league’s social media policy within the last three weeks.