With their 2011/12 campaign having come to an end last week at the hands of the Aldergrove Kodiaks, the Ridge Meadows Flames are already hard at work assembling next season’s team.
Head coach Jamie Fiset says he hopes to see a much more structured franchise in place for next season, with more of an emphasis on scoring and team toughness.
“We’re not blowing the team up,” he said. “We’re reloading, as opposed to rebuilding.”
Fiset, who took over late in the season, admits this year was a disappointment for the Flames, as they amassed only 11 wins in 44 games. However, the team’s play at the end of the season, which saw them finish 4-5 in their last nine games and take the conference-leading Kodiaks to a Game 6, gives Fiset optimism for next season.
“I was very happy with how we finished,” said Fiset. “I though we dealt with adversity well.”
The first priority this offseason for Fiset will be to find top-six scorers to help replace some of the offence being lost by the departure of 20-year-old Danny Brandys, who with 52 points in 30 games, ages out of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League.
“We have a number of players we are looking at right currently playing major midget who we think would be a good fit with the team,” said Fiset. He also plans to add some toughness.
Fiset expects Matthew Bissett, Nicholas Beck, and Marco Ballarin to at least start next season at junior A or in the WHL.
“They are too good to go unnoticed,” said Fiset. “Obviously, I’d love to have them back, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Also departing will be 20-year-olds Shane Harle and Keagan Hunter.
Fiset said the team is in a better position than at the end of last season, when the Flames lost nine graduating players, including five of the team’s top eight scorers.
Some of the biggest additions will off the ice, however.
The team is adding a strength and conditioning coach, a skills coach, and is expanding their scouting network.
Fiset says he hopes to attract players from further afield than in years past, including looking south of the border.
“There are some American players we have our eyes on,” he said. “It’s a matter of determining if they are the right fit for us and if we are the right fit for them.”
The Flames are holding an open prospects camp in May for players hoping to get picked up by the local junior B squad.
“We found Kyle Jangula last season in our prospects camp, he was someone that was totally under our radar,” said Fiset. “This year we’ll be looking for anyone who can help us win. Not just roster players, but affiliates, and players to put on our watch list.”