The Komets’ 59th season has been hugely disappointing so far.
On the heels of three straight championships in the International Hockey League, they are tied for the worst record in the Central Hockey League at 12-16-5.
There have been signs of hope lately with a 7-1-4 surge. The Komets have 33 games remaining – half their season – to overcome the opposition. The following is first-half analysis:
The Komets’ offense averages a league-worst 2.58 goals per game, thanks mostly to the forwards’ inability to attack the net and capitalize on prime scoring chances. Mathieu Curadeau (six goals, 15 points), Sean O’Connor (four goals, 17 points) and Derek Patrosso (four goals, 13 points) have epitomized the Komets’ underachieving nature. Some recent additions have sparked the offense – Colin Chaulk, Tab Lardner and Artem Podshendyalov have combined for 13 goals and 23 points in 34 games between them – while P.C. Drouin (seven goals and 24 points) and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock (10 goals and 15 points) have produced about what was expected. The forwards have helped out ably in the defensive zone.
Frankie DeAngelis was the Komets’ lone selection for the All-Star Game; he leads the team in points (26) and power-play goals (five) and has usurped Guy Dupuis as the most dangerous blue-liner. The others have lacked consistency. Dupuis has only three goals after averaging 15 over the past three seasons. Bobby Phillips and Keith Rodger are a combined minus-27. Brandon Warner has been statistically sound – 13 points, plus-2 – but inconsistent. The Komets haven’t been as strong as usual defensively, ranking sixth with 3.15 goals against per game.
The statistics are underwhelming – Nick Boucher is 9-9-4 with a 3.10 goals-against average and .905 percentage; Kevin Reiter is 3-7-1 with a 2.88 GAA and .899 save percentage – but they don’t do justice to the task with which they’ve been charged. With little offensive support, Boucher and Reiter have had to try and win games on their own, and that’s not feasible. They are one of the better tandems in the league.
The power play ranks third with an efficiency of 20.1 percent, but it has been inconsistent. It ranks first at home at 27.1 percent, last on the road at 13.6 percent. The easiest fixes would be getting more traffic in front of the net and making smarter passes. Drouin and DeAngelis have excelled on the power play with 16 points. Killing penalties, the Komets rank 11th at 81.9 percent efficiency. The additions of Chaulk, Lardner and Danny Lapointe will help.
Al Sims must be held accountable for the lax personnel. He also failed to get the Komets turned in the right direction for too long; they lost 16 of their first 21 games. He was too wedded to veteran players, while others languished on the bench. But the recent improvements of Schrock, Phillips, Neil Musselwhite, Craig Cescon and Chris Francis, who was called up to Springfield of the American Hockey League on Monday, can be attributed to Sims. And he seems to be finding the right line combinations.
The Komets overestimated their talent and underestimated the CHL. That’s why they are in last place and have parted with players like Brandon Naurato, Matt Ward, Olivier Legault and Marc Rechlicz. The Komets still need a power forward and at least one more playmaking defenseman, but it’s probably too late to find them. However, general manager David Franke deserves kudos for getting Chaulk back and swinging deals for Lardner and Lapointe.