We don’t know what league the Komets will play in next season, although they hope an announcement is made this month that new ownership has been found in Flint and the current version of the IHL will go on for a fourth season with six teams.
There are a lot of ifs involved in that, but the feeling within Memorial Coliseum is that the Komets would like to bring back most of the players who helped them to a third consecutive Turner Cup with a five-game final series victory over the Generals.
The Komets went 50-21-5 in the regular season, got the second seed for the postseason, recovered from a 3-1 semifinals deficit against Port Huron and then won the eighth championship in the franchise’s 58-year history.
The first three-peat in franchise history was cemented with a 3-2 victory Saturday in front of 10,480 fans at the Coliseum.
Some players are contemplating retirement, including captain Guy Dupuis, defenseman Kevin Bertram, left wing Konstantin Shafranov and right wing David Hukalo. Also, none of the Komets’ first-year players will retain his rookie status, which is pivotal since teams must dress four rookies every game.
And the IHL is sure to review its rules for fielding veteran players – teams could use seven this season – and possibly alter its salary cap.
There are changes any year in this business, Komets general manager David Franke said. It’s all part of the business, part of the game. The thing I like about this team is we’ve found good, young players to complement our older players. There are a lot of positives with the youth and those youngsters will eventually become our veterans.
The Komets have six players who are at least 30 years old – Dupuis, Hukalo, Bertram, P.C. Drouin, Colin Chaulk and Tim Haun – plus the 41-year-old Shafranov, who missed the playoffs to skate for Kazakhstan in the World Championships.
By winning seven of their last eight playoff games, though, management found renewed faith in the players’ resiliency and poise.
Definitely, coach Al Sims said, when asked whether he wanted to bring back most of his players. You have to reward certain people who take you there and get it done every year. Believe me, those people will probably be back.
While Sims is under contract for next season, none of the players is signed. And they are all curious whether the IHL will fold, which could send the Komets to the ECHL, Central Hockey League or higher-level American Hockey League. Another league would bring either an NHL affiliation or rules that mandate more youth, or both.
But the players want to remain together.
I don’t think we’re always the most talented team, said Drouin, who led the Komets with 18 points, including five goals, during the playoffs. But our work ethic and the team spirit we have in the locker room, the chemistry, it makes up for a lot of that. It shows on the ice and it’s shown in us winning the last three championships.