Left wing P.C. Drouin knows his season hasnt met expectations. But he believes he can salvage it in some respects, as the Komets open their first-round playoff series today against the Bloomington PrairieThunder.
I need to pick it up for the playoffs, Drouin said. If I can do that, I can help the team cause a couple surprises and get some salvation to my season.
Few could have expected the regular season Drouin had – he had 14 goals, 44 points and a minus-3 rating in 61 games – after the way he looked in the playoffs last year. As the Komets won their third straight championship in the IHL, Drouin totaled five goals and a team-best 18 points in 12 postseason games.
But then the Komets joined the CHL, which is composed of younger and faster players, and Drouin struggled from the start. So did almost the entire Fort Wayne team, which lost 16 of its first 21 games and finished 31-27-8 for the sixth seed in the Turner Conference.
Its tough to say what happened, Drouin said. With the start we had, like everybody, I had a tough start both physically and mentally. For a while, I felt like I picked it up, but then it went the other way again. Ive never had a season like that before.
Drouin, 36, who skated three NHL games with the Boston Bruins in 1996-97, is in his sixth season with the Komets dating back to 2004. Hed never had fewer than 23 goals or 74 points in a Fort Wayne uniform.
Ive had lulls within the season before, he said, but for a whole season Ive never had these kinds of struggles, both physically and mentally. Im not playing my game. Im not carrying the puck. Im not making the plays I used to make.
General manager David Franke believes it has been a combination of Drouins age and the CHL style of play.
Its a situation of (Drouin) not getting any younger, Franke said. Theres not a lot of guys in the NHL, (American Hockey League) or anywhere who have played as long as he has. I think the type of style that the teams in this league play, and his age, its starting to catch up. But thats normal. Youre not going to do at 36 what you do at 25. Its not going to work.
Drouin said he feels good physically, though.
Physically, I think Im in just as good shape as I used to be, Drouin said. But when you dont have the confidence, you can start doubting your plays and what you can get done, and that complicates everything. Really, that makes it harder physically on you because you are not in the right spots, not making the plays you normally make and things go the wrong way.
Franke promised that the Komets will get a lineup more in keeping with other teams in the CHL next season. Drouin doesnt really fit that demographic, which makes it crucial for him to have a good postseason.