BUFF-AS-TEAK Riley Emmerson could prove the ideal catalyst for change at Elite League strugglers Edinburgh Capitals.

The 6ft 8in defenceman was yesterday (TUES) appointed as head coach to the Murrayfield men.

And the fans’ favourite replaces veteran Slovakian forward Richard Hartmann who has guided the club for the past four seasons.

Emmerson has pedigree and has played in some of the toughest leagues in North America – including with Missouri Mavericks in American Hockey League and Arizona Sundogs in the Central Hockey League. He also has form. British Columbian-born Emmerson logged 165 penalty minutes last season.

That’s the same as American defenceman Joe Grimaldi who was sacked by the club after a much-publicised flare-up at his former club, Nottingham Panthers, in January which earned him an 18-game ban. Emmerson is, however, a communicator and he was also the club’s leading offensive defenceman last season.

The 29-year-old, who was drafted by National Hockey League side Minnesota Wild in round seven in 2005, scored 14 goals and set up 18 strikes in 50 appearances for the club last term.

Capitals owner Scott Neil is under pressure to improve his side which finished second-bottom of the 10-strong Elite League last season.

They won only 13 times in regulation time and seven times in overtime or by penalty shots in 52 starts.

They finished with 46 points, two behind rivals Fife Flyers who earned the final qualifying place for the end-of-season play-offs.

Neil has been locked in talks with Emmerson for some days after deciding that enough was enough for Hartmann who is now part of the Great Britain back-room squad currently playing in the World Championships in Holland.

Ashe desperately wants to kick-start season-ticket sales popular Emmerson could be his ace card.

He also believes having a former NHL draft pick coaching the team could help attract new talent.

Neil said: “Riley is a great ice hockey professional. He will bring his professional, hockey-first mentality to the club. The club management group have talked a lot since Richard departed, and we agreed that Riley was the best candidate for the job.

“He knows the club, its strengths, its weaknesses, and is looking forward to attracting talented hockey players to come and play in our great city.

“Due to his professionalism, he commands respect from playing colleagues and opposition.

“He maintains high standards of performance, and expects his team-mates to do the same.”

Neil revealed Emmerson has exciting plans for the club that include player recruitment, practices, club culture and playing style. And the owner added: “We wanted to be sure that we were buying into a smart plan and we have that plan in place now.”