Leeds Chiefs player-coach Sam Zajac has revealed he’s already looking ahead to next season as their play-off hopes look to be over.
While they can mathematically match Raiders in eighth place, the Romford side still have to play Bracknell Bees, who are also vying for that final spot twice, meaning one of the two will have more points than Leeds regardless.
So Zajac is wasting no time in starting to prepare for 2020-21 and insists he and his team won’t be going through the motions in the final weeks of this campaign.
“We’re not going to have a three-week holiday camp to finish the season,” Zajac told the Yorkshire Post. “We don’t want to cash in our chips with three weeks to go and take our foot off the pedal – we want to get as many points on the board and beat as many teams as we can.
“There is no way that we will be simply going through the motions between now and the end of the season.
🆚 Telford Tigers
📅 SUN 8 MARCH
📍Planet Ice, Leeds
Let’s raise the roof on Elland Road this weekend! 🔊
— Leeds Chiefs Ice Hockey Club (@LeedsChiefsIHC) March 2, 2020
“We’re looking for an improvement on how we’ve played these last three or four nights, that’s for sure and we’re looking towards the future and next season. Guys that want to be here and guys that we want to be here.
“Effectively, it is an eight-game trial period now for guys and they are aware of that.
“You’re never going to have the same team back, we’re going to be looking to improve, that’s for certain and this team with this new rink is going to be an attractive proposition for a lot of players next season.
“There will be changes and it is up to guys to use these next eight games to secure their jobs.”
Zajac also reflected on his first campaign as a coach and it’s fair to say, it’s had its ups and downs with the Chiefs only moving into their Elland Road home last month and equipment stolen at the end of last year.
And he’s already pleased to have the foundations laid for another crack at it next season where the Chiefs will be better prepared.
He added: “We didn’t exist at this time last year, there was no building. I’d never even heard of the Leeds Chiefs, there was nothing.
“We’ve spoke to guys already and we’ve got a few offers out on guys that we’re really keen on getting back. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from the players that we have spoken to.
“So if we can sign up the ones that we’re keen on – I’m sure there are some who we do want to keep that will get other offers and move on but that’s part of the game – it is up to us to get that solid core in place.”
“I truly believe we’ve got the nucleus of a team that can go on and be successful at this level and it’s been a massive learning curve – for the whole club, for me as a coach as it is the first time that I’ve done this and, for a lot of the players.
“It’s the first time they have played at this level, but we’ll be better for it and we’ll come back stronger.”
With thanks to Phil Harrison