The Komets are in a heap of trouble. I never thought I'd be writing this -- especially after just nine games -- but I'm not thoroughly convinced that this is going to be a playoff team.
And 16 of the Central Hockey League's 18 teams will make the postseason.
Apologists will point to the Komets' 34.56 shots per game, fourth most in the league, and say they're just snakebit. But with this much time, it's become clear that it's more than just bad luck.
Here's what I'm seeing:
- There's way too much individual play. That is why you have so many long-range shots. Where are the tic-tac-toe passing plays we are so accustomed to seeing? On paper, the Komets have a lot of talent -- although it's abundantly clear they lack a first-line power forward -- but until they start playing in unison, they aren't going to score a lot of goals.
- I reiterate what I wrote the other day: The Komets must get traffic in front of the net. There isn't enough of it. And when you aren't scoring, this is Hockey 101 stuff -- you station people in front of the other team's goal and make life difficult for the goaltender. The Komets are averaging a league-worst 1.44 goals per game.
- The Komets' defense is systematically sound. They allow 3.00 goals per game, 10th best in the league, but they're hanging out the goalies to dry too much by not clearing the traffic. Opponents are averaging 31.67 shots per game. The only defenseman who I notice on a consistent basis is Craig Cescon, and that's probably because he's throwing his body around.
- I don't pretend to have a clue what's going on in the locker room during games, but based on what I see on the ice, the Komets need some players to step up vocally. We knew coming into the season that leadership might be a problem. If it hasn't happened yet, someone needs to call a meeting and lay down the law. And someone needs to go out and set the tone on the ice. There's a reason sometimes Sidney Crosby drops the gloves and fights. There was a reason Colin Chaulk would sometimes go out and get in someone's face.
These are all solvable problems. But it's going to take some real soul searching. The Komets are 2-6-1. That's their worst start since 1994.
Management has to have the guts to make some changes pretty soon, and I mean more than just bringing in some fringe players from the junior or college ranks. And the players have to realize that they don't have time to waste, not in a 66-game season, in a city where losing isn't acceptable.