Defenseman Bobby Shea still hasn't gotten a good, extended opportunity to show what he can do in Fort Wayne. While he was solid when he was on the ice – totaling three goals, 16 points and 57 penalty minutes last season – he played only 26 games because of injuries and a call-up to Rochester of the American Hockey League.
“I'm excited to get it going,” said Shea, 27, who is known as much for his offense and physical play as his defense. “I feel great, my body feels great. It's a long year and you have to stay focused, but that's the best part.”
The Komets play the Toledo Walleye, the team that ousted them from the second round of the playoffs, Saturday night at Memorial Coliseum.
With the Komets entering their 66th season with a lot of newcomers, and a new affiliation with the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, Shea wants to be a leader and set an example for how working hard in practice can pay off with success in games and helping get players called up to higher levels.
“At the beginning of the year, my focus is 'every day.' Every day you've got to do something to make yourself better and that's practice, games, anything,” said Shea, who has also played in the AHL for Rockford, Hamilton and Hershey.
He said that last season, playing only 33 regular-season games (23 with Fort Wayne, 10 with Rochester), “it puts it into perspective that anything can happen.”
In his mind, that's all the more reason to make sure you work hard preparing and never let down in games; it's easy to think you'll have the whole season to prove what you can do, but that's not always the case.
“I want to make sure that every game I'm out there, I'm playing well,” Shea said. “I don't want to have any off games. Could it happen? Yeah, it could happen. But I want to do everything in my control to make sure I'm on top of my game every day.”
The defensive corps will look similar to last season – back are Cody Sol, Jason Binkley, Ryan Lowney and Shea – but there's a little less size and a little more speed. That was intentional, coach Gary Graham said, because he wanted his team to be more adept at shutting down speedy opposing forwards and improve at breaking the puck out of the defensive zone.
Binkley, Lowney and Shea, who is from Harrison Township, Michigan, and with his fifth ECHL team, will be expected to be contributors on the offensive end and be anchors on special teams.
All of that is to Shea's liking, as is his penchant for getting involved in the physical game despite his 5-foot-11 frame. Shea is a big hitter and an agitator, and he doesn't shy away from dropping the gloves to fight.
“You don't go out there looking for anything like that,” he said. “But me, being who I am, I play hard and that's the bottom line.”