Todd Dutiaume is refusing to get carried away by Fife Flyers’ good start to the season insisting that one bad weekend could change the complexion.
Flyers lead the Gardiner Conference having won all six games so far, and in a lop-sided Elite League where teams have played different number of games, Fife are statistically the fourth best performing side with a win rate of 66.7 per cent, although they currently occupy seventh place.
It ranks as Flyers best start to an EIHL campaign since they rejoined the sport’s top tier in 2011, but with two-thirds of the season still to go, Dutiaume is remaining grounded.
“Stats are a very useful tool and you can collate them any way to benefit your team, but we’re five points out of 10th, and six points out of first, so we’re right in the middle of the pack,” he said.
“A hot weekend or a cold weekend could make a big difference in where you find yourself.
“What we’ve been doing so far is trying to play consistent hockey and for the first third of the season we’ve done decently well, and strung a number of wins together.
“But the schedule gets busy over Christmas and it keeps heating up until March. There’s still a lot of hockey to play and a lot of twists and turns left in this league.
“Looking at first third it’s been rather successful, and something we can definitely build on.”
Fife’s good start is no accident. A three-week pre-season, a recruitment ethos focusing on younger, faster skaters, hiring a full-time off-ice trainer and equipment manager, have all been key factors.
The next crucial step for the team is to maintain form through a packed festive programme.
“As players you have to be motivated by winning hockey games and recognise the difference between a winning week and a losing week,” Dutiaume said.
“We have a young bunch here that we’re trying to impress upon that they can accomplish near enough as much as they want to by sticking to the process and keeping their mind and bodies healthy and prepared.
“As a coaching staff we do our best to say on top of everything and keep these guys propelling forward.
“If you want to be in the mix for things you have to bring it every week. At the end of the season only a handful of teams will have done that, and we’d love to be among them, but it takes a lot of mental and physical discipline that the team has to be committed to.”
After claiming four points from Edinburgh Capitals over the weekend, Flyers now head into a one-match weekend, with Milton Keynes Lightning travelling to Kirkcaldy for a Sunday evening face-off.
The visitors are three points behind Fife in the standings but have played five games more.
“We’d be remiss to take them lightly,” Dutiame said. “It was only a matter of weeks ago they were sitting above us in the table.”
Flyers will be without youngster Chad Smith who will be in Dumfries this weekend with the GB Under 20 squad preparing for next week’s World Championships. Smith’s ice time has been limited in his first full season on the roster, however, Dutiaume insists the youngster remains work in progress, and encouraged him to remain patient.
“For these young kids who want to make the jump up to this league, it’s important to recognise the process you have to go through,” he said. “You don’t just get called up and instantly injected into the line-up.
“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication especially when you get called up to a team that has a winning record and is playing well right now, and has, up to this point, avoided major injuries.
“Chad has to be patient, and learn from these guys.
‘‘Training with us for the last two years has certainly helped his development and to go further he’s going to need some game time.
“That comes down to a coaching decision, but right now we’re sitting 12 and six in the league, six and 0 in conference, and we have a healthy squad, so it’s hard for a kid to break in.
“Smithy is very capable of logging shifts for us, but we’ve got three hot lines right now. If you look at our top scorers, they are spread out across the three lines and it becomes very difficult to bust into that.
Although Chad has been working hard, he has a good attitude and I see no reason not to believe he won’t break into the squad successfully in the future. We all wish him well with the GB U20s.’’