The Komets open training camp today at Memorial Coliseum, and there are many things to be excited about as the team enters its second season in the CHL.
There are also some things that might make the fans nervous.
This is the Komets’ 60th season, and they are pulling out all the stops. From retiring Guy Dupuis’ No. 2 to the traditional holiday games on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, there should be a festive atmosphere at the Coliseum. The last thing the Komets want to do this season is not be successful and compete for a championship, so they’ve spent big on big names.
Thirty players will be vying for about 20 spots in what should be the Komets’ most competitive training camp since 2002. That year, the Komets were coming off missing the playoffs and would up winning a UHL championship. The Komets are hoping to find the players who will keep them out of last place as they were for most of last season.
The Komets brought in forward Brett Smith and defenseman Jamie Milam, who helped Bossier-Shreveport win the CHL championship last season. The Komets also have seven players who played on at least one of the franchise’s IHL championship teams.
The Komets lacked scoring from the wings last season, but they brought in two experienced players to fill that void: Jesse Bennefield and Bobby Chaumont. They combined for 57 goals in 120 games last season.
The Komets got younger and faster to adapt to the CHL. They have 15 players in camp, who are 25 or younger and seven who are 23 or younger. Last season, they had only three players in camp who were 23 or younger.
Despite promising mass overhauls, the Komets still brought back 11 players from last season’s team, which went 31-27-8 and was eliminated in the Turner Conference Semifinals. Some of those players, such as P.C. Drouin, Leo Thomas and Brandon Warner, need to be more productive.
The defense took a major hit when Simon Mangos, who played with Bossier-Shreveport last season, retired two weeks before camp. He had been expected to produce a lot of points from the blue line.
Nick Boucher won three championships for the Komets, but he wasn’t in net when the season was on the line in last spring’s playoffs. And last season, newcomer Kevin Beech had a 3.95 goals-against average and a .859 save percentage with Wichita and a 3.25 GAA and .891 save percentage with Texas. The goalies must improve.
The Komets lack a proven enforcer. David Starenky could fill that void, but if he doesn’t, Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock will have to play that role instead of scoring.
When the CHL shrunk from 18 teams to 14, the number of playoff spots dropped from 16 to eight. That shrinks the Komets’ margin of error to reach the postseason this year.