Fife Flyers assistant coach Jeff Hutchins has shrugged off the loss of Liam Heelis and insisted that the club is close to securing a replacement.
Hutchins preferred to keep the finer details of Heelis’ situation off the record, however, the Press can reveal that the Kirkcaldy club believed they had a commitment from the 27-year-old forward having pushed the boat out to secure his return.
Heelis instead chose to join EIHL rivals Glasgow Clan – as they are now known following this week’s change in name from Braehead – leaving Flyers to question the player’s loyalty.
Hutchins said: “We’re disappointed that Heeler decided to move on, but I think we’ve done a really good job at quickly reacting to that, and finding another guy that I think is going to be a more than suitable replacement.
“Loyalty has gone out the window here, but every cloud has a silver lining.”
While missing out on Heelis, Flyers have secured the return of three key forwards from last season, namely Evan Bloodoff, Carlo Finucci and the most recently announced Chase Schaber – a trio which amounts to 87 goals and 82 assists from last season’s Gardiner Conference winning side.
Hutchins revealed that he and head coach Todd Dutiaume set out with the aim of retaining six of their eight forwards from last term, however, that number is now likely to be less, with Shayne Stockton also announcing his retirement from the sport this week.
“We scored the second most goals in the league last year so it was important for us to retain a core of our forward guys,” Hutchins said. “We wanted Shayne back, and we think we’ve could’ve worked a deal out, but he’s chosen to move on and take another opportunity outside of hockey.
“We’re still talking to a few other guys that we want back, and I’m happy with where we are.”
In defence, Flyers are currently keeping their options open, with Hutchins admitting that the coaches are hoping to make improvements in this department for next season.
“For us that was one of the areas we wanted to improve on,” he said. “We’re actively looking in that area.
“That’s not to say no-one will come back, we just want to see what’s out there in order to improve that end so we don’t put so much pressure on our goaltender this year.”
One D-man wanted back in Fife is Ian Young, however, having missed the end of last season with a serious concussion, the talented 26-year-old is still in recovery.
“Ian was a priority for us but I don’t know where he is going to be health-wise come the start of the season,” Hutchins explained.
“He’s unable to commit, which is unfortunate as he was our go-to guy back there, and we really missed him down the stretch and in the play-offs.
“If we had him in the final four pushing us out of the zone a lot quicker, then there might have been an opportunity for us to run Cardiff a little closer than we did.”
Hutchins is hopeful, however, that the club will be in a position to announce a netminder shortly, with last season’s fan favourite Andy Iles among a number of goalies in negotiations.
“We’re talking to him, and also a few other guys, and we should have a decision on that pretty soon,” he added.