Edinburgh Capitals player-coach Richard Hartmann admits he has been stung by the level of criticism he has received after Caps failed to make the play-offs for the third time in four years following their 6-3 midweek loss at title-chasing Cardiff Devils.
The result in Wales means Hull Stingrays and Fife Flyers book their spots and complete the line-up for the play-off quarter-finals, which get under way next week.
A dejected Hartmann, reflecting ahead of the first of two end-of-season dead rubbers with Dundee Stars this weekend, said: “For sure we’ve not had a successful season. I expected it to be completely different. We came through a lot of adversity but mistakes were made, I’m not scared to say that.
“I always stress the importance of the Christmas period, and at that time we did not play well and lost a lot of important games. In the end we gave ourselves too much to do in our fight for the play-offs.
“I can’t accept all the blame for this. There were a lot of mistakes made off the ice that weren’t sorted out and that was a key factor to us not having a successful season.
“I need to take some time to analyse things, and then with a clear head give a proper statement to the newspaper, but I don’t accept all the criticism I’ve received in the media, especially social media.
“We need to finish the season with our heads held high and play to win. There may be nothing to play for but pride, but how we perform this weekend reflects on our characters and shows what kind of people we are and that’s what I’ve told the boys.
“We played pretty well on Wednesday, just made a few too many mistakes in our zone. You have to show some respect to Cardiff though – we were playing against quality opposition.”
Indeed, Edinburgh battled hard on Wednesday night, and looked a far better unit than the same group of players who endured a stretch of 13 games without a win early in the season and were demolished 10-0 in the Welsh capital last November – ironically a result that triggered a seven-game run of form which saw them remain unbeaten in regulation and pick up 13 from 14 possible league points.
It was that level of inconsistency that Capitals defender Kyle Flemington admits was a major factor in what will be a ninth-place finish for Edinburgh when the season ends after Sunday’s game with Dundee at Murrayfield (face-off 6pm). Flemington, who is keen on a return to the Capitals next season, said: “We have improved and progressed as a group this year and there is some chemistry there for sure, and if we can keep some of the guys next year we can make some noise in this league. We should have been a play-off team this year but we had some bad runs of form that hurt us in the long run.
“The onus is on us as players, and ultimately we didn’t get the job done and we have to take responsibility for that. If I had to make an excuse I would say that we were hit pretty hard when guys were hurt or suspended, but when we had a full bench we played pretty well and went on runs where we didn’t lose for a month and that’s something we can learn from.”
Flemington, who missed the Cardiff game through injury and is a doubt for tomorrow’s trip to Tayside, continued: “It’s been a roller-coaster year for sure, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. We battled hard right up to the end and I’m proud of my team-mates.”