Steve Thornton setting sights high after Belfast Giants' poor season
Steve Thornton has vowed to make the Belfast Giants a force again next season after seeing the current campaign end in disappointment.
The Giants suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak in the Play-off semi-finals after a thrilling 2-2 draw with Coventry Blaze, which they had dominated for most of the first two periods.
Beating Hull Stingrays 8-6 in a wide open third/fourth place contest yesterday wasn't much consolation, as the trophy they had gone to Nottingham to win was already out of their reach.
Having also finished well off the pace in an unsuccessful attempt to defend their Elite League title, 14 points and four places behind champions Sheffield, Thornton knows only too well that the team is in need of a serious rebuild and there will be a high turnover of players this summer.
Robby Sandrock has already announced his retirement, Calvin Elfring will decide his playing future in the next few weeks and there have been suggestions that Evan Cheverie and Colin Shields are considering hanging up their skates.
If goaltender Stephen Murphy can prove his fitness, Thornton will immediately put a deal in front of him, meaning no return for Carsen Chubak.
Other Great Britain internationals David Phillips and Mark Garside are too valuable for the coach to let them leave easily.
Thornton would like to see the best of Mark McCutcheon, after his season was dogged by injury from the start. Whether he comes back is likely to be up to the player and former NHL-er Kevin Westgarth will probably seek a club in one of the higher-profile European leagues or return to north America.
That just leaves the futures of Cody Brookwell, Ray Sawada, Kevin Saurette and Nathan Robinson to be resolved. There is no questioning their individual ability, but it may come down to whether Thornton wants to free up space on his roster or money in his budget for new faces.