FORT WAYNE – The Komets have reflected on last season, when they joined the CHL with so much hype yet languished in last place until February.
They have dissected the mistakes they made in going 31-27-8 and losing to Rapid City in the Turner Conference semifinals.
The Komets don’t want a repeat of last season’s results, especially when the franchise is celebrating its 60th season.
We’ve spent a lot of time together this summer, talking about players and philosophies and what we want to do differently, general manager David Franke said. We’ve had a wakeup call and have a new focus.
When training camp opens Monday, there will be 30 players vying for about 20 spots. While 11 of them played for Fort Wayne last season, Franke and coach Al Sims have not guaranteed many players they will be here come the regular-season opener Oct. 22 at Memorial Coliseum.
In the offseason, the Komets prioritized getting younger and faster, while adding scoring punch to the forward lines and size to the back end.
The most notable acquisitions were forward Brett Smith and defenseman Jamie Milam, who both helped Bossier-Shreveport to the CHL championship last season; forward Jesse Bennefield, who had 35 goals and 75 points in 60 games with Wichita; and forwards Bobby Chaumont and Chris Auger.
I think, overall, we’ve got some people who can put the puck in the net. That was a real problem for us last year, Franke said. We have some good playmakers and guys who can bury the puck.
Franke raved about the addition of defenseman Bryant Molle, who will join his brother Dustin on the blue line. They are among eight players in camp that are at least 6-foot-2.
In net, the Komets have Nick Boucher, who helped them to their three IHL Cups, and newcomer Kevin Beech.
Another goalie should arrive this week, and Franke stressed that new players could be arriving all the time, as Fort Wayne wants to closely monitor players coming from the higher-level American Hockey, the NHL-affiliated ECHL and Europe.
The Komets recognize they underestimated the CHL last year.
I think we have a solid team, Boucher said, but I know a lot of the other teams in the Central Hockey League are loading up, too, because it’s such a buyer’s market. It’s a good time to be an owner looking for players (because of contraction in minor-pro hockey).
The Komets have been skating informally for weeks, and Boucher likes what he’s seen.
I’m pretty impressed with some of the new guys, Boucher said. We’ve been skating, and I’ve been watching the guys as they show up and, granted, it’s summer hockey, but I like what I see. I like the additions we’ve brought in.