At 27-years-old, Edinburgh Capitals’ defenceman Michael D’Orazio is the youngest player-coach in the club’s history and he wants to see a his team “compete” in his first match in charge, at home to Belfast Giants at Murrayfield this evening (face-off 5.45pm).
D’Orazio and experienced assistant coach Jock Hay will team up for the remainder of the season following the departure earlier this week of head-coach Dmitri Khristich.
Under Khristich, who was not helped by three senior players quitting the club, Capitals had won only three Elite league games and failed to make the knock-out stages of the Challenge Cup. D’Orazio is aware of the challenge both he and Hay face as they look to improve the club’s fortunes as they enter the new year and the second half of the season.
D’Orazio said: “Its been a tough week for us, the guys liked Dmitri and he was well respected, but things like this happen in the professional hockey business, we hadn’t been winning games, we needed to shake something up and unfortunately Dmitri and the club decided it would be best if he stepped away.
“I’m up for it, I’ve been told by team-mates throughout the years that I’d be a good coach and I’ve been fortunate to be coached by a lot of great people, most of whom have coached in the NHL so I hope to bring to the table a little bit of what I learned form each of those guys.
“It’s going to be a different approach (to Khristich) with me being a player-coach but we’ll see what happens.”
One can argue D’Orazio, in only his second year as a professional ice hockey player, and also studying for his Masters at Heriot-Watt Watt University, is under no pressure to deliver. Edinburgh sit 11 points adrift at the foot of the Elite League and have no realistic chance of making the end-of-season play-off’s. However, the club are making efforts to ensure the team improves and will ice former KHL forward Ainars Podzins, a Latvian, for his debut tonight. They have also secured the siganture of experienced Canadian netminder Tyler Beskorowany who willarrive early next month.
D’Orazio is not taking his new position lightly, and said: “No, the pressure is always on when you’re part of the coaching staff. I want to change the mentality, I want the team to compete every day and in every game. We haven’t found any consistency this season so that’s first and foremost. If we’re not going to win the game, we’ll still be competing very hard, that’s one thing I want to drive home.”
It’s always difficult to motivate players on a struggling team, another challenge faced by D’Orazio and Hay.
“That’s the biggest thing.” said D’Orazio: “You’ve got to get guys wanting to come to the rink and put their best foot forward, we’ll definitely be implementing some fun into practices but Jock and I are also planning some structure and we’ll be pre-scouting teams that we’ll be up against, and plan to tailor our systems to the teams we’re playing.
“We’re in the process of planning all that out, Jock’s been around for a long time and I can really lean on him. First and foremost he has way more experience than I do coaching, so everything that we do in the realms of coaching the team will be discussed between both of us.”
Edinburgh will be without suspended forward Sergei Banashkov tonight and on Boxing Day away to Fife Flyers, after the Russian forward was given a two-game ban for slew-footing an opponent during last Sunday’s 7-2 home loss to Guildford Flames. However, D’Orazio who’s season has been plagued by injury, is fit and returns to the line-up.
He continued: “Against Belfast I want to see that high compete level. I find we go a few goals down and we lose our composure; we’ve been taking way too many penalties and we need to be more disciplined. Belfast have so many veterans who can put the puck in the net on the power-play.”