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The Journal Gazette

  • Andy Morrison | The Blade Komets forwards Mike Cazzola, middle, and Kyle Thomas, right, are the types of young, speedy players the team will need more of next season. 

Sunday, May 07, 2017 6:30 pm

Komets want to be younger, faster

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Asked about what the Komets take away from this series, in terms of things they need for next season, coach Gary Graham said this: 

“I really think we need an influx of youth and speed into the organization. That’s a big thing, especially if you look at how some teams retool during the season. It’s a speed game and we’re going to have to find a way, in order to compete with Toledo in this division, of getting faster. Team speed is going to be something that I’m really going to stress during the summer time and it’s going to be a big part of what we do.”

Sure sounds like a coach who will be back, right?

Remember what general manager David Franke said about Graham's possible return: “Gary’s contract is up now and we’re in discussions with him. We’re talking to him and if we can work it all out, then I’m sure that’s what will happen, yeah."

Graham has a regular-season record of 169-84-35, a playoff record of 27-22 and has won 5 of 9 series.

In the five-game loss to Toledo, Komets MVP Mike Cazzola had one assist, Mike Embach one assist, Shawn Szydlowski one goal, and Garrett Thompson one goal and two points. Holding those guys in check was huge for Toledo.

“Obviously, every player in here has to learn from it and grow,” captain Jamie Schaafsma said. “It’s mostly the pain of losing that reminds us all how much it hurts. The pain of losing is awful. You work together for seven months with guys and you grow close and grow that bond. You want to do something special and it’s very disappointing when that doesn’t happen.”

I know there will be much debate about the lack of an affiliation, especially since the Colorado Avalanche's new ECHL team, the Colorado Eagles, is still playing. But I really think it works better in Fort Wayne as an independent. Tell me if I'm wrong, but the fans like having the players here as much as possible and like winning, more than they like seeing a couple of players move up to the NHL. Remember, the Komets actually had their roster for the playoff run and didn't have to worry a whole lot about an American Hockey League team pillaging them in late April. 

The biggest downside of being independent, to me, is how it affects you in recruiting free agents. But the Komets proved this season they still can provide a pipeline to the AHL. Getting called up were: Szydlowski, Trevor Cheek, Thomas, Bobby Shea, Garrett Bartus and Brady Vail.

I would like to see the Komets recruit players from some new areas, perhaps. Of course, they stick with college and junior teams/coaches they have now, but maybe unearth some players from different places.