FORT WAYNE – Al Sims, 60, who guided the Komets to five championships between 1993 and 2012 with a stint coaching the NHL’s San Jose Sharks in between, retired Monday as the winningest coach in the francise’s 61-season history.
To win five championships in 10 seasons here, and to be with the players who were all a part of those championships, those are my most vivid memories, Sims said. Right after the (Cup-clinching) games, running out on the ice with the players you’ve been with for the full season to celebrate, some coaches never get to do that one time. I got to do it five times.
The Komets went 33-35-4 and missed the playoffs last season, their first in the ECHL. It was the first time a Sims-coached Komets team missed the playoffs.
When Al Sims came here in (1988), the organization knew it was getting a good hockey man with good NHL experience and contacts, but who would have thought we would have won all these championships? general manager David Franke said. He was the captain of the ship and did a heck of a good job.
Sims went 437-250-74 in the regular season and won 72 of 105 playoff games.
We cannot thank Al enough for his accomplishments during his two different tenures as Komet coach, Komet president Michael Franke said. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Sims played 516 games in the NHL, mostly with the Boston Bruins, with whom he was Bobby Orr’s defense partner, and the Hartford Whalers. He got his start in coaching with the Komets as a player/assistant coach and took the head-coaching reins a year after that.
After winning the 1993 championship of the old IHL, he became an assistant coach with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks for three seasons before coaching the Sharks for one. He then bounced around the IHL, ECHL and CHL – often missing the playoffs and never making it past the second round – before rejoining the Komets in the reformed IHL during 2007. He guided the Komets to IHL titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
He also won a CHL title with the Komets in 2012.
But the Komets never found their stride in the ECHL under Sims – it was also their first season as a minor-league affiliate of Anaheim – as players were routinely called up and injuries hindered the chances of success.
The Komets have no players under contract, and Sims’ replacement will have a large say in putting together his roster.
Now we’ll start the vetting process (of coaches). I’ve talked to a few people but nothing big or tangible or concrete has happened, said David Franke, who wouldn’t discuss candidates but thinks a hire could be made by June 1.
Longtime captain Colin Chaulk, who recently retired, covets the job, but he is more likely a candidate to be an assistant.
Some other candidates may include former assistant coach Gary Graham, who won the Southern Professional Hockey League championship with Pensacola this year; former players Brian Gratz and Bruce Richardson, who have coached professionally; and Ryan Mougenel, who took Las Vegas to the ECHL finals in 2012.
What a legacy coach Al Sims leaves behind. Thank you, Al, Franke said.
Sims hopes to stay a part of hockey.
Hockey is my passion, he said. Hopefully, I will always have something to do with it, even if it’s coaching a peewee team or whatever it might be. I’d like to stay involved with the sport in some capacity, maybe as a color commentator on the radio, or who knows? I have a lot of expertise.