Capitals chief Scott Neil urges fans to keep backing team

Ryan Hayes, left, scored 25 goals for Capitals but has been allowed to join Sheffield. Picture: Jan Orkisz/SMP

Ryan Hayes, left, scored 25 goals for Capitals but has been allowed to join Sheffield. Picture: Jan Orkisz/SMP

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Co-owner Scott Neil has refuted any claims that Edinburgh Capitals have short-changed their fans this season and has urged supporters to continue to back the team.

The Elite League’s top scorer Ryan Hayes quit the Caps to join Sheffield Steelers earlier this week, making him the fifth player – and fourth import – to leave the club this season.

Scott Neil

Scott Neil

Although disappointed with the team’s current form – one win in their last 13 games – Neil is adamant there are no major underlying problems at the club. And, ahead of tomorrow’s home match with Manchester Storm (face-off 5.30pm), he said: “Of course, there are things that could be better at Edinburgh, but this season players have left for a variety of personal reasons and not one of them has said that they have been unhappy with the club.

“We have worked very hard to bring in quality replacements like Ned Lukacevic, Brandon Coccimiglio and Nikita Kolesnikovs. Players of equal, or arguably a higher, calibre to those who have left.

“Of course, we were unhappy and disappointed to lose Ryan, but the reality is we’ve let go a player who was in demand and became unsettled – that’s professional sport.

“It’s going to be very difficult to replace Hayes with a player of equal stature, especially at this time of year, but we’ve done our very best to keep the team as strong as possible throughout the season.

“We’re working flat-out to get the team performing and winning games again and we’ve still got a squad of players who can do that. We won’t have a replacement in time for tomorrow but we’re looking at what’s out there.”

Edinburgh are now just one point ahead of Storm at the foot of the table and Caps’ forward Trevor Gerling admits players have been affected by Hayes’ departure but it’s business as usual at Murrayfield as they prepare for their only game of the weekend.

Gerling who, after last week’s 6-5 overtime home loss to Coventry Blaze, was presented with the supporters’ club’s player-of-the-month award, said: “Things are still the same. These are two huge points against a team right behind us in the standings and a game we need to win if we’re to progress at the end of the season. But it’s a travesty to lose Ryan. He was a leader on the team and great in the locker room. I don’t know if we can replace him, but we all need to pick us some slack – that’s for sure.

“The last month has been tough. We haven’t been winning games and we’ve been struggling but, for me, the job remains the same. I go out there and try to make plays and create some offence. It’s nice to be recognised by the fans for that – the fans have been great – it’s still fun to go out and play in front of them.”

Edinburgh have never really looked the same team since blowing a three-goal third-period lead in an 11-9 home loss to Dundee Stars in November. Caps, who at that point were fourth in the league, have won only two games since.

Asked if he knew where it had all gone wrong, Gerling said: “No, not really. One area we need to improve on is 60 minute consistency. We seem to get complacent if we take a lead, or if it’s a close game we seem to sit back and let the other team take it to us and then we have to respond.

“We need start with a jump, and try to keep that tempo and consistency for 60 minutes and, if we do that, we’ll find ourselves in a lot of games and winning a lot of games. When we let that drop, other teams seem to really take advantage so it’s something we need to avoid.”