The Komets are experiencing a summer like 2002.
They missed the postseason in the spring of 2002 – the only time since 1997 that happened – and the decision was made to bring back only eight players.
The resulting summer saw the Komets make significant free-agent acquisitions, including Colin Chaulk, Sean Venedam, Bobby Stewart and Kelly Perrault, and go on to win the UHL’s Colonial Cup.
After a tumultuous first season in the CHL, in which they were in last place until February, finished with the 10th-best record in the regular season and were eliminated in the Turner Conference semifinals, the Komets are back in rebuilding mode.
The Komets have already signed Chaulk and left wing P.C. Drouin.
They have prioritized, coach Al Sims said, re-signing forward Artem Podshendyalov, goaltender Nick Boucher and four defensemen, presumably all-star Frankie DeAngelis, Craig Cescon, Bobby Phillips and Dustin Molle, and hope to have as many as 12 players return.
But that may be contingent upon what players they snag from the four franchises – champion Bossier-Shreveport, finalist Colorado, Mississippi and Odessa – that departed the CHL and left their players as free agents.
(General manager David Franke), Colin Chaulk and I have talked over the rosters, who we would be interested in and wouldn’t be, and I also called each and every coach from those teams – they know those players better than anybody – and I got direct references, and we narrowed the list of players we’re interested in down, said Sims, who guided the Komets to IHL championships in 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Some are young guys. Some are developmental. Some are veterans. There’s a cross breed of players.
The Komets have made several offers to those players and hope to have news on them soon. The CHL will go from 18 to 14 teams this season, and the playoff berths will drop from 16 to eight teams.
The Komets will also get a look at some news faces in a free-agent camp at the World Hockey Centre in Shelburne, Ontario, Aug. 7 to 13.
They have summer hockey camps there.
I think you have to have an open mind, Sims said. If we can get two players out of that camp, anywhere near the skill of Artie Podshendyalov, it’ll be worth me going up there.
There will be kids from all over the world hoping for a chance to go pro.
Note: Pat Bingham, who coached the Komets to a regular-season UHL title in 2006-07, did not have his contract renewed by Bridgeport of the American Hockey League and will coach Elmira of the ECHL next season. Bingham was 24-30-11 as Bridgeport’s interim coach, after Jack Capuano was promoted to coach the New York Islanders.