Everyone is assuming that priority No. 1 for the Komets will be determining what direction they want to go with the coaching position – stick with Gary Graham or make a change – but there is something almost as big that you may not have considered: Renewing vows with the Vegas Golden Knights or moving on.
The Komets, who lost their first-round playoff series with the Toledo Walleye in six games, were the only team in the ECHL playoffs with neither a forward nor a defenseman contracted to a higher-level team.
The affiliation with the Golden Knights and American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves yielded only goaltender Zach Fucale, who stopped 91 percent of the shots he faced in the series and was better than that would imply, and forward Matthew Weis for six regular-season games. (The Komets never got Phelix Martineau back from Laval because of a concussion he suffered in the penultimate game of the regular season.)
I said from the start, this wasn’t going to be a good affiliation for the Komets this season. The Golden Knights are so new, they don’t have a fully stocked minor-league system. Worse, the Wolves have a long history of being a me-first team that isn’t a good partner for their ECHL affiliate.
While I personally think a team can be successful in the ECHL as an independent team, Rapid City and Greenville missed the postseason this season.
The only thing worse than being an independent team, I think all would agree, is having an affiliation that bears no fruit. That gets you into a situation like the Komets had, where they hold roster spots for guys who never arrive.
Toledo had seven players contracted to NHL- or AHL-level teams. Cincinnati has even more.
“You have to be on top of these changes in the league if you really want to win a championship in this league. It’s not just about recruiting free agents anymore. It’s about the affiliation help, which I think is big,” Graham said. “I’m excited about the Vegas deal; I think it’s going to continue to bear fruit moving forward for the organization. But this year it was a bit of a growth curve in terms of what we’re going to get.”
I can tell you Komets management had meetings with the Vegas Knights late in the regular season. This very topic was surely discussed. The belief is that Vegas can be a good partner. But it won’t happen unless their AHL team gets on board with the process.
The Komets' deal with Vegas expires this summer.