Fife Flyers season may have ended at the Motorpoint Arena last Sunday, but for the coaching staff, the hard work simply starts all over again.
An 8-2 defeat to Nottingham Panthers in the dead rubber EIHL third/fourth play-off match brought the curtain down on an otherwise thrilling campaign.
The preparation for next season is already underway, with Todd Dutiaume and Jeff Hutchins keen to build on the success of a year that saw Flyers clinch their first Gardiner Conference title.
A key part of the progression, assistant coach Hutchins explained, will involve retaining a strong core of this season’s side, as well as investing in British players – even if it means breaking with tradition and recruiting from outwith Fife – to give the bench more depth.
“If we’re going to go anywhere as an organisation we can’t start from scratch every year,” he said.
“We need to identify the guys that are important to us, build strong foundations, and try to piece players around them.
“That will be our intention. We’ll talk to guys that we want to come back, and then we’ll start the process of rebuilding.
“We also have to bring more British players in. We have a couple of guys where this is maybe their last year, and we need to backfill that.
“Our junior development is not there yet to the point where we have a flow of players coming through, so we might have to get some Brits from outside Kirkcaldy to bolster that.
“We’ve been rolling with an extra import for the last 10 to 12 weeks so there IS the commitment from the organisation but if we don’t have British guys that are ready at this level to step in, we’re always going to lack the depth because you can only put 14 imports in the line-up.
“We need to solve that problem if we’re going to progress and challenge the bigger clubs in the depth that they have.”
Flyers players gave their final farewells to the travelling fans after the defeat to Panthers, and emotions were high in the changing room afterwards as the realisation dawned that a team with a ‘special bond’ had played its final game together.
“It was a really close group and we, as a coaching staff, have really enjoyed working with them,” Hutchins added.
“They’ve brought life to the room every day and we’ve had some really memorable moments as a group.
“You might bring some guys back, but you won’t bring them all back, and that’s the difficult thing because it ends today.
“We were a disappointed group in terms not getting the job done and playing in the final, but it doesn’t define what we’ve done this year.
“We’ve faced a lot of adversity over the year but we’ve come through and accomplished one of our goals to win the conference and bring a title to Fife, so we can take pleasure in that.
“Playing in the third/fourth place game wasn’t our intention but we just have to look towards next year and build on what we’ve achieved this year, and try to go one better.”