Hard work beats talent.
That’s the simple message Fife Flyers head coach Todd Dutiaume is giving his under-performing players after a weekend that saw them lose back-to-back games against Dundee Stars.
After an impressive start to the league campaign, Flyers have now lost five in a row - their worst stretch since suffering a similar run in the Challenge Cup at the start of the season - now Dutiaume is looking for his players to show what they are made of.
“Hard work will beat abundance of talent more times than not,” he said.
“We have talent that tends to switch off at times, but when we’re working hard, we ARE a good team.
“Hard work is not a skill. It’s a choice. Guys have to know that’s what’s expected of them.
“They’ve certainly been told that, but there’s other ways to get that message across.”
Dutiaume stopped short of threatening changes to his roster, but added: “We’re not doing our jobs if we don’t always look to improve this hockey club.
“If this involves making tough decisions, then of course.”
Flyers response to a similar losing streak in September, which also featured home and away defeats to Dundee in a double-header, was to embark on a run of eight straight league wins.
“We’ve been in this positon before and bounced back,” Dutiaume said.
“Can it be done again? Yes, but in this league it’s incredibly tough.
“Teams are getting into mid-season form now, and it’s probably a lot easier to drop than it is to move up the charts because you have to be great every night.
“But we’re a team that’s capable of that.”
Dutiaume admitted that the ongoing absence of Chase Schaber due to a muscle injury may have been a factor in the team’s recent slump, with the talismanic forward hoping to be back sometime in January, if his recovery goes according to plan.
Should the injury require an operation, however, his season will likely be over.
“Losing Schaber has had an affect – yes – because he’s our marquee player up front, although we were doing well without him,” he said.
“He’s a big part of our club and we built our forward unit around him, but it’s allowed other guys to step up, and both Jeff and I are big fans of Joe Basaraba.
“He plays the game the right way and he competes. We’re looking to him as one of the guys who will play in key situations.”
Looking back over the weekend performances, Dutiaume felt his team got what they deserved on Saturday in Dundee, but that Sunday’s defeat on home ice was avoidable.
“On Saturday we just weren’t prepared to do the work that’s going to make us successful,” he said.
“But on Sunday, we were in control of the game for big portions.
“It was probably five to six minutes of tense, loose play that cost us a point in that game.
“In the first period we had guys shooting the puck, net traffic, guys holdng onto the puck, creating battles, back-checking – all things that every hockey player knows.
“But once you get away from it weaknesses can get exploited and teams have recognised that lately.
“We train diligently about the way we want to play, and when it comes off and we do it right, we have success.”
Flyers now face defending champions Cardiff Devils at Fife Ice Arena on Saturday before taking the bus to Manchester Storm on Sunday.
Shane Owen will sit out training this week as Dutiaume looks to rest his starting goaltender after a run of 10 games in 24 days.
“We’ll use this week to give our goaltender a much needed rest so he’s firing on all cylinders again this weekend,” he said.
“He’s been overtaxed lately, playing every single minute this past month.
“We’ll let him recharge the batteries coming into December when the games are nice and spread.
“There’s no more midweek games until after Christmas, so we’re looking at lot more comfortable.”