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Candidates to coach K's

The Komets continue to call Al Sims their head coach.

But they've yet to commit to him for next season.

The longer this goes on – the season ended March 30 without a playoff berth – one can't help but wonder if they are evaluating other potential candidates before deciding if Sims is still their guy.

The following is a look at some potential candidates for the Komets' job.

Colin Chaulk

The recently retired, five-time MVP of the Komets would instantly have the respect of the players and would be a popular choice with the fans. At 36, doesn't have head-coaching experience in the professional ranks, but his knowledge of the game is superb and, in the opinion of some players, he's been like a second coach of the Komets for years. That doesn't mean he's got enough experience recruiting players, though, and the Komets might prefer him to wet his beak as a full-time assistant coach first, even if it risks losing him to another team. Further complicating the situation is his health. He's having muscle weakness and nerve problems, the very issue that forced him to retire. It happened for the Komets and could hinder his chances of coaching the Komets this season.

Gary Graham

As a rookie head coach, the 34-year-old native of Fort Wayne led Pensacola of the Southern Professional Hockey League to a championship this month. His playing career didn't go far – he made it only to juniors – and he's had to fight to gain the players' respect because of that. But he's extremely driven and it's showed. He talked the Komets into bringing him on as an unpaid assistant coach in 2008, got more and more responsibilities over four seasons and hoisted the Cup three times with them. He knows the organization, the expectations of coaching the Komets and would be a good recruiter of talent. But the ECHL would be new territory for him.

Brian Gratz

Like Graham, Gratz's drive has made up for a limited playing background. A native of Fort Wayne, he was a goaltender briefly in the ECHL, SPHL and UHL (with the Komets). He started out coaching in ramshackle circuits like the Mid-American and Eastern Professional Hockey Leagues. With limited resources, he fared well with Dayton of the CHL (55-58-19) and last season he went 28-36-2 with Bloomington of the CHL. It would be interesting to see what Gratz, 31, could do with the Komets' resources behind him.

Kevin Kaminski

It's unlikely the Komets would go this direction because they've had their chances before, but the former Komets and NHL player, 44, would be a popular choice with the fans. He was a tough player and his teams have taken on that identity, too. He has coached in the ECHL, though not since 2004 with Long Beach. He took Louisiana of the SPHL to the finals this season.

Ryan Mougenel

He spent the last four seasons with Las Vegas of the ECHL – reaching the finals in 2012 – and his teams have all had winning records. Mougenel, 37, was a solid forward at the professional level and would put an exciting team on the ice. All of the coaching he's done – in Fresno and Las Vegas – have been out west and he might be able to draw from a different pool of players than we are used to seeing.

Greg Pankewicz

He played briefly in the NHL and has been an assistant coach with Colorado of the ECHL for the last four years, apprenticing behind Chris Stewart, who has won three professional championships. He's pretty ensconced in Colorado, so Pankewicz, 42, might be tough to pry away, but he'd be worth a phone call.

Marty Raymond

After coaching Bakersfield of the ECHL from 2003 to 2007, he spent last season in Austria. He's 48 and has successfully coached a mix of youngsters and veterans, such as former Komets stars Sean Venedam and Guy Dupuis.

Bruce Richardson

In one season with the Komets – 2006-07 – Richardson gained the respect of the fans and the organization. He will be a stellar coach in the ECHL sooner rather than later. As a rookie head coach with Scotland's Braehead Clan – while he was still playing, alongside Bobby Chaumont – he was Coach of the Year. The last two seasons, he has coached the Chateauguay Patriots Midget AAA team. Richardson, 35, is extremely driven and passionate, would field a physical and exciting team, and he played four seasons in the ECHL and knows what it's all about.

Al Sims

Sims, 60, has led the Komets to championships in 1993, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012, and last season was his first in 10 seasons with the club that he missed the playoffs. The good news is that he would be driven to succeed next season and the last time the Komets had an unexpectedly poor season – 2010-11 – they recovered the win a championship in the CHL. The bad news is that he lost the attention of the players last season and there are those within the organization who think a fresh approach would help.

Vince Williams

His team, Trenton, folded recently. It was only his second season as a head coach – he went 32-32-8 – but he did it with a lukewarm roster of players. Williams, 37, played seven seasons in the ECHL and knows the ins and outs of what's successful in this league.

OK, so what would I do? I think Sims deserves one more season, with the caveat that he has a full-time assistant. And that guy should be Chaulk. Sims has earned one more shot and let's not forget that he didn't have full control of putting together the inadequate roster of this season. If a change is made, however, I'm intrigued by the idea of Richardson with Chaulk as his assistant.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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