Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Fuming Courtenay hands every Giants player threat of the axe

Ed Courtenay has taken a major step to back up his threat to axe players from his Belfast Giants team.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that EVERY player in the squad has been given their two weeks notice in writing, with player-coach Courtenay himself giving out the letters.

Under the standard contract every player in the Elite League can terminate their contracts after a 14 day notice period and the clock is ticking on a number of members of the Giants team.

A week ago Courtenay gave his players two games to save their jobs. Over the weekend the Hull Stingrays and the Cardiff Devils both inflicted defeats on the Giants, with nobody else joining Scott Cameron and Trevor Johnson among the names on the coach's safe list.

Now the threat of losing their jobs just a month into the season is hanging over the players, with the axe ready to fall at anytime.

"The guys know how serious I am about making changes," said Courtenay.

"They were all given their two weeks notice and any guys that want to go can go.

"That is how serious I am.

"It is frustrating for me to be trying to get a response from the players and still I am the one who is scoring goals and putting points on the board and I am 39-years-old.

"Other than that Scott Cameron is the only one to have done it on a regular basis.

"Some others have done it, but not consistently enough."

After eight defeats in ten matches it might seem that things can't get any worse for Courtenay, but they did last night.

Roman Gavalier hasn't played since the opening weekend of the season and he will now be missing for a further three weeks.

Added to that the injury to Johnson that wasn't as bad as initially feared may now actually keep him out for a few weeks.

"We thought Roman was closer than he is, but we were told he's going to be three more weeks and that is a blow to us," said Courtenay.

"I perhaps didn't give him enough credit last season. JP Morin was the best defenceman in the league, but perhaps Roman made him the best in the league.

"Trevor Johnson's thumb keeps dislocating. He thought he was fine, but he's obviously not.

"He is going to be looked at and I think he will be out for a while.

Although Courtenay is desperate to make changes he is restricted in just how much he can alter his line-up.

Under Elite League rules he is allowed to play a maximum of 15 imports - or ITC transfers - during any one season, with no more than ten playing in a match.

All ten spots were taken up when Courtenay built his roster for the season and since then Todd Kelman stepped into the line-up on a temporary basis before new signing Shaun Sutter made his debut against the Stingrays in Dundalk on Saturday night.

That has left just three ITC spaces between now and April and one of those has to be kept back in case of an emergency.

Despite those restrictions it is a situation that Courtenay is comfortable with.

"Under the rules I can only make two changes, but I don't really feel restricted by that," he said.

"I am not happy being tenth out of ten teams, but I don't think that we are that far away.

"Two wins would lift us halfway up the table and that would feel a bit better for me and the players.

"It is not very pleasant being where we are, but I don't think it is anything that two players wouldn't improve."

And those changes will happen this week if Courtenay can't get the right players in time.

"I am waiting on something and that might happen in the next 24 to 48 hours," he said.

"I have been on the phone and there have been people calling me as well as the other way around.

"The right guys have to come in though. I won't sign just anyone.

"There are guys out there who are looking for jobs and there are some who I would take a chance on.

"I have told the players that I will make changes and I will do it as soon as a guy who is the right fit is available for me to sign."

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