Coach Cloutier ready to ring changes at Hull Stingrays
COACH Sylvain Cloutier is pressing ahead with his team re-building plans for Hull Stingrays' 2013-14 season – amid speculation linking him with a return to his former club Coventry Blaze.
Canadian Cloutier, 39, captained the Blaze to silverware in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 campaigns and remains a favourite at the Skydome.
And he would arguably be a popular choice to follow Paul Thompson, who is leaving to join Swedish second division side Troja-Ljungby, although he will remain a Blaze director.
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"No-one from Coventry has contacted me," said Cloutier.
"I am under contract to coach here. My home is in Hull.
"As far as I'm concerned, I've already started to build the Stingrays for next season and that's what I'm doing right now."
Cloutier has already opted to take up the second year of his two-season deal signed last summer to make it five campaigns in Stingrays' colours.
Netminder Ben Bowns and sniper Jereme Tendler have followed suit.
Forward Jason Silverthorn is also on a two-year deal, while stand-out defenceman Martin Ondrej looks certain to be handed a chance to return.
Cloutier revealed that of the current crop only defenceman Shane Lovdahl will definitely not be back as he intends to retire from the sport.
It is possible, though, that veteran defenceman Dmitri Rodin will also hang up his skates.
It leaves the Stingrays' coach with pretty much a clean slate in a bid to improve on this season's performances.
With four games left, the Rapid Solicitors Hull Stingrays are ninth in the overall Elite League standings but sit top of the Gardiner Conference.
"Obviously, I want to address some of our weaknesses, while at the same time keeping a good core of players here," said Cloutier.
"Overall, though, we're not far away, that's the frustrating part.
"If we'd won half of our shoot-out or overtime losses we'd have been battling against Cardiff and Edinburgh for fifth, but instead we're battling to make eighth.
"I need guys who are consistent week in and week out, and guys who can get the job done in a shoot-out."
Cloutier is also keen to retain the nucleus of his British talent, believing a lack of experience early season has proved costly.
"I think at the start of the season we didn't have the depth in the Brits," said Cloutier.
"Don't get me wrong, our young British players have done nothing wrong, but they are still young and have to bide their time and get ice time.
"If Tom Squires and Danny Wood had been here from day one that would have made a big difference."