After a 7-3 loss to the Toledo Walleye, which dropped the Komets to 1-4-0 on this season, the feeling in the locker room was certainly one of frustration.
But there was a tinge of optimism because there were actually times the Komets showed improvement. When were those you ask? During the scoreless first period, when Garret Ross hit the post and Aidan Muir was a great save away from scoring. Or, during that brief rally in the third period when J.C. Campagna and Marco Roy scored.
Not much, I know, but it's something.
As I’ve been saying all along, the Komets are now saying: They are trying to find an identity. In other words, are they a skill team, a grit team, or what? We just don't know yet.
“Right now, we’re lost in our identity and that’s what the guys have to figure out right now,” coach Gary Graham said. “They have to figure out what type of team we’re going to be and there are a lot of guys who are trying to be a lot of different things, when we have to be great at one thing and build off of that. Consistency right now in our game through 60 minutes is where we need to be at. And, listen, right now I’m a direct reflection of the results. I’ve got to look in the mirror myself and do whatever I can to help this team find a way to win games. I’m very confident in the group and our staff to get this thing on the right track, but it starts with me.”
The fans are obviously disappointed. The players seem to know that.
Defenseman Cody Sol, who had the late fight with Ben Storm, said: “(Our effort is) not consistent and it’s not hard enough. We’re doing the right things offensively. It’s just we get away from that defensively, or we’re a liability, and we’re just not playing hard enough. Especially for these fans, who use their hard-earned money and we’re giving them nothing right now.”
I asked Sol about the team still trying to find its identity and he said: “I think if you look at our stats sheets and our roster and where guys have come from in the past, we have the skill and we definitely have the speed. And we have the toughness with guys like (Justin) Kea and (Taylor) Crunk and me, and we’ll throw ‘em, and we have some big boys. We’ll come together. It’s just right now, it’s really frustrating.”
I know people will put some of this blame on goalie Zach Fucale. But Graham said he thinks Fucale is terrific and that’s why he left him in for them to battle back from the 5-1 deficit, which the Komets did, but the defense continued to hang him out to dry.
“We’ve got to be a lot more mentally tough. When you’re sliding, you get guys right away who get real fragile during any adversity in the game. We’ve just got to get harder in those moments in the game,” Graham said.
“Guys need to understand where their focus needs to be. Guys want to go out there maybe after a goal against and maybe be the hero or do something great, and if they get off the script then that’s maybe the beginnings of a breakdown. Then the second guy can read off the first guy wrong and then that’s another breakdown.”
I’d add this: While I know most people are putting the blame on the offense, I see almost all of the problems right now being with the defensive corps. The Komets are having trouble breaking the puck out of the defensive zone; holding the puck in the offensive zone at the blue line; and if they get caught up ice, whoa, then they’re really in trouble. As Kalamazoo did last week, Toledo was pretty much playing a full-court press and it worked.
And now the Komets have to go play Toledo’s home opener. The Komets already played Indy’s, Cincinnati’s, Kalamazoo’s and their own, so this will be their fifth home-opening crowd in six games.
Playing at the Huntington Center could be disastrous or maybe it’s the opportunity they need. We’re about to find out a lot about this team.