FORT WAYNE – For the first time since 2002, the Komets aren’t in the playoffs. They finished their first ECHL season 33-35-4, and there will be mass organizational changes before next season, including an overhaul of players and maybe even a new coach.
The last week or two was a tryout for us internally on making a final decision on people, general manager David Franke said. I’m not saying there will be a lot of guys back, but there will be a few and it will be the ones who we feel can compete on a nightly basis.
Here’s a look at how the Komets of next season could/should be shaped:
3 players who must be brought back
JEAN-MICHEL RIZK: He earned multiple call-ups to Norfolk of the American Hockey League and can play a variety of roles; Rizk, right, had 19 goals and 34 points in 66 games.
BRANDON MARINO: He led the Komets with 20 goals and 74 points in 71 games, and he was plus-7. With more help next season, he could put up even more impressive statistics.
MATT FIRMAN: The rookie had 14 goals and 30 points in 69 games and could be a good third-line player in the ECHL.
*-Players under contact to Anaheim/Norfolk not considered.
3 things that must improve
HOME PLAY: Despite a league-best attendance average of 7,583 fans per game, the Komets won only 16 of 36 games at Memorial Coliseum. They must find players who will be confident, not flummoxed, by the Coliseum.
SCORING: The Komets couldn’t even get their shots during breakaways on net. They need to find finishers, lots of them.
TEAM SPEED: The Komets’ fastest players were average speed for the ECHL. By the end of the season, opponents were cherry-picking and getting repeated odd-man rushes per game.
3 top off-ice issues
THE COACH: Al Sims, right, has won four championships since 2008, but he lost the players’ attention this season. He can’t be held accountable for a lot of the personnel issues, but he must convince management he can adjust to this league.
THE LEADERS: Captain Colin Chaulk played only 28 games because of injuries and illness, and it’s unknown whether his career is over. The Komets must decide whether Chaulk, 36, Brett Smith, 32, and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, 28, are driven enough to remain.
THE AFFILIATION: Anaheim and Norfolk didn’t take much away, but they didn’t provide much, either, in the way of talent and responsible players. The Komets must either get more from their affiliation or add a second one.
3 reasons to be optimistic
THEY LEARN QUICKLY: The Komets had similar growing pains when they joined the CHL in 2010-11 and they won the championships the next season. And after they missed the 2002 UHL playoffs, they won the 2003 title.
NHL LABOR: The lockout in the NHL complicated personnel issues for ECHL teams. It’ll be easier to tell which players can compete next season.
THEY HAVE A BASE: The Komets came into the league without an expansion draft or any players on their roster; they will be able to protect guys and make trades this year.
3 reasons to be pessimistic
CALL-UPS: The Komets’ season really went south when goalie Kenny Reiter and all-star defenseman Daniel Maggio got called up to Bridgeport and Lake Erie, respectively, and that sort of thing will continue to happen.
LACK OF CONTROL: Some of the Komets’ best players, like Jeff Deslauriers and Ryan Hegarty, are Anaheim property and the Komets will have little say in their return.
CONFERENCE DISPARITY: Right now, eight of nine teams in the Western Conference make the playoffs. If that rule doesn’t change, it’ll continue to be harder for Eastern Conference teams to get into the postseason.