FORT WAYNE – Al Sims has led the Komets to four playoff championships in his eight seasons coaching the Komets since 1989, winning the IHLs Turner Cup in 1993, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
But with Fort Wayne, hes never overseen a stretch as bad as this seasons 5-15-1 start that has the Komets 10 points behind Evansville for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Central Hockey Leagues Turner Conference.
One CHL coach has been fired this season – ex-Komets player Kevin Kaminski was axed in Mississippi – but Sims job seems safe even if Fort Wayne doesnt turn this season around.
We are not going to do anything with the head coaching position, general manager David Franke said. We feel very confident in Al. Hes working to try to better the hockey club. Hes trying everything he can.
No, nothings going on with Al Sims (job) at all.
Franke and Sims, who put the roster together, have admitted to misjudging the talent on their team and may have underestimated the CHLs skill level.
Looking back, we thought a lot of our players would do better than they have, said Sims, who coached the NHLs San Jose Sharks in 1996-97. (Mathieu) Curadeau, (Derek) Patrosso, (Brandon) Naurato, all of the players we had brought in who had scored in the past, we expected them to score the same at this level and that might have been a mistake. But these guys were proven scorers. Thats all I can say.
The Komets released Naurato – he will be in the lineup tonight for visiting Dayton – and stripped Guy Dupuis of his captaincy and P.C. Drouin of his alternate captaincy. Theyve acquired Tab Lardner via a trade with Missouri. And more changes will be coming, Franke said.
Sometimes, players on struggling teams begin tuning out the coach, but Sims, 57, doesnt believe thats happening. In fact, he has heaped praise on their efforts throughout the last four games of their seven-game losing streak, while also deriding their penchant for penalties and inability to capitalize on scoring chances.
The next three games are against the Gems (13-9-1), coached by Fort Wayne native Brian Gratz, whom the Komets are 0-4-0 against this season.
I think theres still time to salvage this, Franke said. Thats our opinion, that we still can. But weve got to start right now. We cant fall much farther behind, otherwise, it will take a Herculean task to get back into the playoff race. We do have a lot of games, 45 of them, to play, though.