There’s no sugarcoating this right now – the Komets stink. They are off to a 5-13-1 start in their first Central Hockey League season, after winning the last three championships of the IHL.
During the summer, it seemed laughable that only two of the CHL’s 18 teams would miss the playoffs, and the Komets are now in danger of being one of them. They have lost five in a row and are 10 points back of the last postseason slot.
Clearly, management underestimated the caliber of CHL play and overestimated the talent of its roster.
With 47 games remaining, there is time to salvage the season. The following is a 10-step plan of how to make it happen:
1) Move underachieving players: No one is safe, especially if they are making a lot of money. One has to believe center Mathieu Curadeau (three goals, nine points) and left wing Brandon Naurato (two goals, six points) would have the most value on the trade market. Or, the Komets may find better use of their salary cap space than left wing P.C. Drouin (two goals, 10 points) and captain/defenseman Guy Dupuis (one goal, six points), who probably wouldn’t report to another team since they have homes and off-ice jobs here.
2) Bring in a power forward: Finding top-line players isn’t easy this time of year, but the Komets desperately need a power forward in the mold of Matt Syroczynski, who was the Playoff MVP last season. The only player who consistently wreaks havoc in front of the net and in the corners is 5-foot-11 Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, but he doesn’t have great size.
3) Someone step up as leader: Without center Colin Chaulk, now playing in Europe, the Komets lack a player who commands the respect of the locker room by saying something and then going out and doing it, getting others to follow along the way. If no one has stepped up yet, it probably won’t happen.
4) Play no favorites with ice time: If the rookies and fifth and sixth defensemen are getting the job done, give them the playing time over the seasoned veterans.
5) Shoot the puck: No more of these passes across the zone, over the sticks of three opposing players, to set up a one-timer. It’s not working. Shoot the puck if the opportunity is there. However, closer-range shots would help, too.
6) Be aggressive: The common theme among the few victories this season is that they’ve seen the Komets dictate the play with aggressive forechecking and defense. The Komets have the savvy to take it to opponents on a consistent basis; they need the will, though.
7) Find defensemen: The loss of 6-6 Steven Delisle to a shoulder injury, likely for the season, hurts because he effectively used his size and reach to obstruct the opposition. Craig Cescon, a similar player at 6-2, missed the last two games with a concussion, but should be back this weekend. Still, the Komets need another bulky defenseman.
8) Limit the penalties: If you have a lead or if it’s the last few seconds of the period, it’s probably not the time to get called for cross-checking.
9) Take advantage of home ice: The Komets are 3-5-0 at Memorial Coliseum, where they average a league-best 7,807 fans. They play 28 more games at the Coliseum, including the three Evansville home games they assumed, so they must capitalize.
10) Finish stronger: The Komets are 4-2-0 when leading after two periods, 0-2-1 when tied after two periods. That shows a lack of desire.