At one stage this season, Edinburgh Capitals looked like creating a storm. However, as they prepare to host play-off chasing Manchester Storm in their only game of the weekend on Sunday, Caps’ campaign will end as nothing more than a damp squib.
Team co-owner Scott Neil is adamant, though, that injuries have played a major role in the Murrayfield club’s recent struggles.
Only a few weeks ago, Manchester looked to be a dead cert to – along with Edinburgh – miss out on the end-of-season play-offs. However, a run of six wins in their last seven games has the Altrincham outfit just one point outside of the play-off places. An impressed Neil said: “Manchester have always been battling away, but they have really come onto a game of late, and you know what? I think they’re going to do it.
“The frustrating thing for us is we were in a great position (midway through the season) and are no longer in the play-off race. There are improvements we’ll look to make at the club but one key thing that people seem to be quietly ignoring is we’ve been hit with four season-ending injuries, along with other injuries to key players on top of that.
“Our injury list has been unprecedented in the history of the club. The season’s over for (player-coach) Riley Emmerson, Jacob Johnston – who, before he was hurt was the second highest scoring defenceman in the league – Jordan Steel and Brandon Coccimiglio.
“On top of that, we lost David Rutherford for a month, Paul Zanette for longer than that, and Coccimiglio again after he broke a rib after only playing three games for us.
“A lot of clubs in this league with an injury list like that would have struggled to cope.”
Neil revealed that for the first time Edinburgh are considering holding back a portion of next year’s playing budget for injury cover, but admits it’s something he loathes to do for fear of curbing the development of local players.
Neil continued: “It’s really made us re-think our budget plans for next season.
“One of the positives from us playing so short is fans are getting to see how good a player Callum Boyd could be, plus guys like Tyler Plews and Jay King have been getting a lot more ice time. It’s so important to develop your young players, but it’s getting increasingly hard to do that in this league and remain competitive. The bigger clubs will just fly in an additional import when they have an injury and we are strongly considering keeping a portion of our budget back next year to pay for ‘injury cover’ players should the need arise.
“I’m in a quandary. You have young British guys, who’ve been sitting on the bench all year. Then, when someone goes down with an injury, another player is just flown in to replace them and the British guy is still sitting on the bench. It must be a real slap in the face.”
Meanwhile, Emmerson, taking a break from preparing his team which looks likely to be without Brandon Thompson with an upper-body injury, admits his players accept the role of “spoilers” as they look to upset title challengers and play-off chasers alike in the club’s final eight games of the season.
Emmerson said: “Our focus now is to be that spoiler team, whether that’s putting a dent in title hopes or just a team trying to make the play-offs. The guys here are still working their tails off as they look to prove themselves.
“Manchester have always been a dangerous team but they are in fine form right now, and it’s setting them up nicely for a real play-off run. If they keep winning a few games they could sneak in there which would be huge for them.
“Our job on Sunday is to make it tough for them. We don’t want to give them anything and we need to be mindful of guys like Mathew Sisca and Vinny Scarsella, the pair of them have torn us apart this year.”