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The reaction to the news that Ryan Hayes and David Rutherford had effectively walked out on Edinburgh Capitals both stunned and angered in equal measure.

Two of the team’s shining lights had deserted them at a time when it can be argued they were needed the most and it left Player/Coach Riley Emmerson shattered.

He hasn’t had it easy in his first year as a coach and when appointed to the role to succeed Richard Hartmann, he had high hopes and ambitions about what he wanted to do.

Emmerson spoke to this writer when he was appointed about getting more sponsorship at the club and perhaps persuading co-owner Scott Neil to loosen the purse strings a little.

We were seeing signings announced throughout the summer, instead of the last few weeks before the season started, which was the norm and to the frustration of Hartmann at the time.

The quality of signings had improved also, with some real talents coming to Murrayfield, suggesting ‘Emmo’ had managed to get more of a budget.

They even had a phenomenal start to the season with some great results and rose to as high as fourth in the table at one point.

It looked as though it was changed days and the club were ready to mix it up against teams of a higher budget.

Then Hayes, who was the league’s top scorer, jumped ship with Rutherford doing the same days later and somewhat angrily after hearing of his teammate’s defection.

Ross Dewar, the Caps’ correspondent for the Edinburgh Evening News, confirmed this on The Forecast podcast by Manchester Storm, who witnessed it at the time.

When Emmerson spoke to BIH just over a week ago, he revealed he had to explain that things are done a little differently at the club.

He sold Edinburgh Capitals as a ‘stepping stone’ and, in the case of Hayes and Rutherford, that can be true as they headed to Sheffield Steelers and Belfast Giants respectively.

Emmerson said he was up front to mention the fact that the rink is older and the locker rooms perhaps aren’t what most imports expect.

Taking the Caps coach at his word, the departing players can’t have any excuse that they didn’t know what they were coming to.

Instead, they decided to bail out and leave the players left in the lurch at a time when form has escaped them.

Emmerson went out of his way to bring them over and the fans, who have had too many false dawns, were left without two top performers.

From the reaction on social media, those in the know were happy to be shot of them, but the point stands they deserve far better.

Sure, players jump ship at any opportunity given to them and to an extent, are entitled to do that which is why it’s important the Caps recruit decent quality to replace them.

After years of relative underachievement their hopes of play-off hockey are hanging in the balance, so the recent signing of Canadian forward Brandon Thompson is a welcome boost.

Emmerson also deserves to have a full compliment of imports and his plans for the season haven’t just been spoiled by these two departures.

Five imports have left since the start of the season and while most have been replaced, one can only imagine how much that has affected what he set out to do.

Emmo will learn a lot from this season as a coach and he’ll be more wary of players that have a single-minded attitude.

Without sounding patronising, Edinburgh have become everyone’s second team because of their underdog status.

Just once it would be nice to see things go right for them. In the last couple of seasons, they’ve had more than their fair share of bad eggs.

It’s certainly great to see that a section of the fans have shown their support on social media by backing Emmerson and hopefully he’ll return for another season.

After the campaign he’s had, you wouldn’t blame him if he went home at the end of the season, locked himself in a dark room and stayed there until at least June.

To lose him would be a huge blow as the Capitals try to compete in a league that gets tougher every year. Let’s hope he’s not put off by this experience.

(Image permission: Patricia Carvalho)

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