The Komets had a fantastic decade, missing the playoffs only once and winning three playoff championships. The Journal Gazette set out to determine a Team of the Decade, using input from 25 reporters, team officials, players and fans. However, we had the final say and came up with this terrific team.
With his wicked slap shot and smooth skating, it’s not surprising that P.C. Drouin spent some time in the NHL.
Drouin has been great in Fort Wayne, tallying 118 goals and 370 points in 344 games over 4 1/2 seasons.
And there have been times when he has carried the team. When center Colin Chaulk missed much of last season with a rampant infection in his foot, Drouin assumed the leadership roles in the locker room and in the scoring columns with career highs in goals (32) and points (98).
He’s probably the most consistent scorer on our team, coach Al Sims said. He gets a lot of it done on the power play, and he seems to score big goals. He’s not a huge goal scorer, but when you need a goal, he’s a guy who’s consistently there for us.
Second line: Bobby Stewart
Third line: David-Alexandre Beauregard
Colin Chaulk’s place among the franchise’s all-time greats is secure. He’s led the team in scoring three times and has 142 goals and 536 points in 472 games over seven seasons.
But his contributions go deeper than statistics.
He is known for his leadership abilities. He won’t often scream or yell. But when he does, it’s because the time is right.
Chaulk was a dynamic scorer in juniors, but by the time he reached the Komets in 2002, he had realized he needed to become a multifaceted player.
I began taking pride in being stingy defensively and trying to create offense after that, said Chaulk, who has won leaguewide Best Defensive Forward honors three times with the Komets and is great on faceoffs.
Second line: Sean Venedam
Third line: Mathieu Curadeau
Jonathan Goodwin’s teammates called him the bowling ball. It wasn’t as much a reference to his 5-foot-10, 205-pound build as it was to the way he knocked over bigger, stronger competitors in the corners for three seasons.
I remember, during his rookie year (2004-05), I thought, He can’t keep going in there like this. He’s going to get killed,’ center Colin Chaulk said. I even told him, Goody, we just have to stop. We can’t go chasing them all over the place.’ But he wouldn’t listen. He would create so much havoc and the rest of us would pick up the garbage.
Goodwin created plenty of scoring chances for his teammates – he had 102 assists in 248 games – and he also scored 98 goals.
Second line: David Hukalo
Third line: Dustin Virag
Kelly Perrault was the most gifted offensive defenseman of the decade. He racked up 41 goals and 168 points between 2002 and 2004, manning the point on the power play en route to a Colonial Cup championship.
But his contributions went beyond that.
Thanks to his 6-foot-1, 205-pound physique, he logged lots of minutes and doled out punishing hip checks. He never got enough credit for his abilities in the defensive zone despite being plus-60 with the Komets.
To this day, I think he should have played in the NHL, former Komets left wing Bobby Stewart said. He had raw, great talent and competed each night. He became a great all-around defenseman. Early on, he was better known for offense on the back end. Later on, he became a force both ways.
Second unit: Kevin Bertram
Third unit: Troy Neumeier
Since starting his career with the Komets in 1992, Guy Dupuis is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played with 901. But his contributions during the decade were about more than just being an ironman.
He’s been an unparalleled contributor at both ends of the ice, tallying 65 goals and 298 points in 356 games.
He’s just steady at everything, goaltender Nick Boucher said. He’s not a flashy player. He’ll admit he doesn’t have the best hands and isn’t the best skater. He’s not a Brian Rafalski, with incredible puck-carrying skill. But he makes good outlet passes, is smart on the rushes and distributes the puck well on the power play. P.C. Drouin has those amazing one-timers, and you’ve got to have the guy to lay the puck in the right spot, and Dupuis does that. On the power play, you can really see how well he moves the puck.
Dupuis, 39, has won leaguewide Best Defenseman honors each of the last three seasons.
Second unit: Frederic Bouchard
Third unit: Dave Lemay
When the Komets faced dire circumstances, trailing three games to one in the 2008 Turner Cup Finals, they looked to Nick Boucher. He didn’t disappoint, guiding the Komets to three straight victories, including his epic 34-save triple-overtime 3-2 Cup-winning victory over Port Huron.
His statistics may not match up with Kevin St. Pierre’s, but given one game, in a must-win situation, Boucher is the choice.
I always try to take to heart that you’re never as good as people say you are and never as bad as people say you are, said Boucher, who is 77-30-5 with the Komets. I’m not naive enough to think it’s all me. I know if I do my job, I’ll put up good numbers. This team never asks their goalies to do anything extraordinary. You just have to be steady. I think I have been.
Backup: Kevin St. Pierre
Emergency goalie: Tom Lawson
Al Sims’ return to Fort Wayne, after a 14-year absence, couldn’t have been scripted better. He’s gone 114-41-21 and won back-to-back regular-season and playoff championships.
He has had to keep numerous personalities in check and keep the players motivated despite large leads in the standings, and he got them to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2008 finals.
And he has proved himself a teacher, getting terrific performances from rookies Mathieu Curadeau, Justin Hodgman and Rick Varone.
One of Sims’ best tactics has been to make sure he doesn’t get overly emotional with his players, unlike previous coaches have.
I think I’ve learned from 20-plus years of coaching that going in and screaming at your team and screaming in practice, that will only work for a short period of time before they turn you off. Then your message becomes insignificant and the players won’t listen to you, Sims said. I count on (the veterans) to run the room. Especially with as many young guys as we have, you can scare the (heck) out of them at times and they won’t perform. They’ll be nervous. I want to stay off them and encourage them.
Assistant coach: Greg Puhalski