Ten Teams Ten Days VIII: Fife Flyers: Hidden And Dangerous

Now I’ve got you where you need to be
and the dark has left your eyes…”

Marmozets: “Move, Shake, Hide”

INTRO

The EIHL’s oldest team are preparing for another season in Kirkcaldy – and this season, like the last few, is one where they’re trying to break out from their perennial position treading water towards the lower reaches of the EIHL playoff race and begin to climb up the table. They’re always fun to watch and the Fife Ice Arena crowd love to roar their team on whatever the performance…but who are the players who’ll be making the Kirkcaldy Roar take the roof off this season?

NETMINDERS

#30 David Brown, #35 Craig Douglas

An offseason of major change in Fife starts in net, as Kevin Regan retires and Blair Daly is forced to give up his backup role due to an off-ice work transfer to London after originally re-signing with the team once again. This means two new faces in net, and they’re both sure to sp hasn’ark some interest.

Starting will be Canadian David Brown, who joins from the defunct Hull Stingrays, where he had an up-and-down year in net for a Hull team that did the same thing. He showed flashes of real brilliance, particularly in the truly epic playoff semi-final against the Sheffield Steelers, but also had nights where he appeared to be very beatable indeed.

A stocky netminder with an unconventional style that often makes it appear he’s fighting the puck off with every save rather than controlling it, the Stoney Creek, Ontario native can have fans with their hearts in their mouths but is also very effective at stopping pucks when on his game.

Backing him up is local netminder and ex-Kirkcaldy Kestrel Craig Douglas – the 25-year-old hasn’t seen much game action recently as backup to Renny Marr at SNL level – like most EIHL goalies he’ll only be used in spot relief.

DEFENCEMEN

#2 Tom Muir, #4 Chris Wands, #5 Nicolas Rioux, #7 Phillipe Paquet, #24 Matt Delahey, #55 Kyle Haines

Fife’s defence returns only three players from last years defence and only one import, with Jamie Milam and Matt Nickerson moving away to pastures new (Nickerson to Belfast and Milam to Slovakia’s HK Nitra) which means that it’s a unit boasting very different names. However, the key player in last year’s unit, Kyle Haines, returns, which is big news…the man from Saskatchewan was their top offensive D and also captain last season, and is a cultured offensive defenceman with no mean amount of skill.

Among the new faces, the standout is Quebecer Nicolas Rioux, who joins from the ECHL’s Quad City Mallards and also spent some time with the AHL’s Iowa Wild last season – he’s a solid two-way defenceman with a useful amount of attacking ability.

The Nickerson-sized-hole in the defence will likely be filled by Phillipe Paquet-a 6’3, 214lbs Quebecer with a strong playing style who spent last year in Denmark with Rungsted and has also played with Fredrikshavn when they finished 2nd in 2012/13. Joining him on the “strong, physical” side of the Flyers D is Canadian Matt Delahey, who at 6’1 and 212lbs comes from a solid career in junior and the CIS and figures to be the 2nd pairing equivalent of Paquet.

The defence corps is completed by Fife stalwarts Tom Muir and Chris Wands, who are both quiet, no-nonsense defencemen more than capable of eating up some time and holding up their own end.

This isn’t a flashy group, but it’s an effective one and will likely give David Brown some strong protection in front of him.

FORWARDS

#9 Justin Fox, #10 Stephen Gunn, #15 Josh Scoon, #18 Allan Anderson, #19 Ryan Dingle, #20 Michael Dorr, #22 Jeff Lee, #23 Jamie Wilson, #27 Shayne Stockton, #39 Danny Stewart, #61 TJ Caig, #67 Patrick Cullen

This forward group may be the most impressive both in strength and in depth that Fife have assembled in the EIHL era. It’s one that sees a wholesale clearout of imports (only assistant coach Danny Stewart survives among them) as coach Todd Dutiaume goes for a whole new group among his forwards.

They’re a strong group that are very likely to trouble opposition goalies, too…containing a mix of imports who’ve been prolific in some very good European leagues and NA minor league scorers-as even a cursory look will prove. Todd Dutiaume and Danny Stewart know that goals win games, and they’ve got them here.

Ryan Dingle is an excellent top-line centre, fast and creative, excellent on faceoffs and with a very strong scoring record indeed in Italy. He’ll likely be flanked by veteran sniper TJ Caig, who has played his whole pro career in Europe, with the exception of two widely-separated seasons in North America with Tulsa Oilers. He’s scored 246 goals in just over 300 games in Europe, and only had one season in which he didn’t score at least 20 in a ten year pro-career. Now that’s consistency.

Continuing the scoring theme are strong wingers Justin Fox and Jeff Lee-Fox scored 58 points in 71 games for the ECHL’s Quad City last year, while Lee was a team-mate and scored 12+31. Diminutive sniper Michael Dorr, who didn’t play much last season but in his last full season in 13/14 scored 32 goals in Germany’s DEL2, will likely provide a major secondary scoring threat on the 2nd line, which will probably be centred by big power-centre Shayne Stockton, who comes to the EIHL after a strong season with Amiens in France’s Ligue Magnus.

Patrick Cullen is an intriguing signing on the 3rd line – the winger is described as a dynamo with relentless workrate who will be a perfect partner for Danny Stewart on a grinding, agitating line that will see locals Jamie Wilson, Stephen Gunn and Josh Scoon fight for the third spot (although Gunn is likely to get the majority of the time).

This is a group geared more to goals than grit, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t mix it up where required – they’re one of the bigger groups in the EIHL and in Cullen and Stewart they potentially have two of the best pests in the league on their third line. This will not be a fun group to face, and could surprise a few teams…certainly the goalscoring potential and pedigree is very impressive in this group and more than comparable to the vast majority of other EIHL squads.

PLAYER TO WATCH – #61 TJ Caig (RW)

Any time you have a player who’s only scored less than 20 goals once in a ten-year pro career, you have to figure he’s going to be very good at what he does. Caig is a strong, experienced goalscorer who at 34 knows every goalscoring trick in the book. If he forms a partnership with Ryan Dingle early in the season than it could be another prolific season in Fife for him…which can help carry the Flyers a long way.

POTENTIAL LINES (F)

Justin Fox-Ryan Dingle-TJ Caig

Jeff Lee-Shayne Stockton-Michael Dorr

Patrick Cullen-Danny Stewart-Stephen Gunn

Josh Scoon/Allan Anderson

POTENTIAL LINES (D)

Phillipe Paquet-Nicolas Rioux

Kyle Haines-Matt Delahey

Chris Wands-Tom Muir

David Brown/Craig Douglas

COACH: Todd Dutiaume (10th season)

At this point, it seems that the only way Todd Dutiaume will leave the Fife coaching job is when he decides to – the Canadian is part of the fabric in Kirkcaldy and as solid and constant a presence as the biting wind coming in off the North Sea that rattles the Auld Barn’s rafters on winter nights. Along with his assistant Danny Stewart, he’s quietly put together what is probably the best roster seen at Kirkcaldy in years-and he’s done it with almost no fanfare. The EIHL has improved again this offseason, but Fife have done so right along with it.

SUMMARY

Fife fans have a lot to be optimistic about this season. The Flyers are a club who traditionally love to fly a little under the EIHL radar, often leaving long gaps between signing announcements and taking their time building their roster.

With this season, that has paid off greatly. Todd Dutiaum and Danny Stewart have taken last years Fife roster, taken the blows of some of their best players leaving, and still built a roster that looks even better, particularly in the forwards – it’s deeper, stronger and more rounded. There may still be questions over David Brown in the minds of some after his struggles for Hull early last season, but if the Flyers can get their forward lines firing, watch out.

The Flyers way isn’t to make big promises and shout about how good they are, but perhaps they should be. This Fife team is the best the EIHL has ever seen in Flyers jerseys, and it has some serious potential.

If they’re beating the big guns later on this season and making some waves in the EIHL come midseason, don’t say you weren’t warned.

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