Hutchins appointment is '˜huge' for Fife Flyers
They were once bitter rivals, but now Todd Dutiaume has teamed up with former Dundee Stars coach Jeff Hutchins in an attempt to bring success to Fife Flyers.
Dutiaume this week appointed Hutchins as his new assistant, replacing Danny Stewart who left to take up the head coach position at Coventry Blaze earlier in the summer.
And, in a first for Flyers, Hutchins will also take on a new role – director of player development – as the club looks to bring through the next generation of local talent.
Dutiaume is confident that his former opposite number can be an asset to the club, both on and off the ice, as it prepares for its sixth campaign in the EIHL.
“I took my time on this decision,” he told the Press. “There were a number of potential candidates that wanted to throw their hat in the ring.
“But after speaking to Jeff a number of times over the summer, and explaining my ethos as a coach and our beliefs as a club, Jeff was fully committed and bought into that.
“He knows the expectations of the organisation, and he’s really keen to show that he belongs back in the game in the UK, and has aspirations of being involved for a long time.
“He also has a winning pedigree in this league, he brought home a conference championship, and I’ve found out over the last five years it’s not the easiest thing to do – and it’s only getting tougher.
“He’s very confident when he talks about the game and we look as if we will work well together. We seem to be pulling in same direction so I think he’ll be a great addition.”
Dutiaume believes that the appointment of a full-time, non-playing assistant coach is a positive step that the club needed to take.
“I took the notion of having two full-time bench coaches to the bosses, and it was something that wasn’t initally embraced,” he said.
“But after fighting it out and chipping away we now have two full-time coaches and it’s huge for practice, for games – for everything.
“The direction that hockey has moved, and the amount of demands that get put on the coaching staff, certainly in this organisation, another full-time coach is required.
“We’re pulled in a multitude of directions, not only during the summer, but throughout the year.
“And with how technology has finally moved forward in this country, with us breaking down game tape and being a lot more system-based, you are consistently busy.”
As well as taking a hands-on role with the EIHL team, Hutchins will also play a key role in bringing through youngsters from junior development to train with the Flyers and make them ready for the step up to EIHL level.
“Bringing kids up to training is something that I’ve done for the last five years, but being out there and getting coached is two different things,” Dutiaume said.
“We haven’t had a new British player break through with us for a while, even though we’ve had these kids with us. This is going to be a big move towards taking the next step.
“Steven Lynch and his coaches are doing great work in junior development, but we are going to try build that bridge from our junior system to our pro ranks, which is quite a significant gap.”
Dutiaume believes that the player development position is a vital role if Flyers are to continue their ethos of playing local talent.
“The directors have made it clear to me that this is a club that survives on local-based talent, albeit a very small one as import numbers are increasing,” he said.
“Our local guys won’t play forever, and it’s important to put some positive pressure on these guys in the form of young kids who are capable of challenging them for their jobs.
“This isn’t an old boys club - we expect to win with the best possible team we can put on the ice.
“Just like we bring fresh imports in, we need to have our British contigent challenged by kids who realise that it’s possible to gain a spot in this club.
“This will all come under my remit, but Jeff will be hands-on. So when I’m taking a full practice, Jeff will be able to give these kids the one-on-one coaching that they need.
“Not only that, he will be developing our imports and Briitsh guys who have a spot on the team. They will be graded by us on their weekly performance, and we will identify trends and spots that we need to improve.
“We’ve done similar things in the past, but now with two full-time guys, it’s a lot easier to give players feedback on an individual basis, rather than a team basis.
“I can ask Jeff to break down video on an indiviudal basis, what we think is great and where we think we need work, and we can do that from Andrew Little right up to Brendan Brooks.”