FORT WAYNE – After six seasons with the Komets, during which he totaled 143 goals and 446 points in 426 games, left wing P.C. Drouins time with the team is over.
He helped the Komets to three championships in the IHL, led them in scoring twice and regularly wore the A as an alternate captain.
But Drouin, 37, was a casualty of the Komets desire to get younger and faster heading into their second CHL season, so he was their final cut Thursday. The Komets open their 60th season Saturday against the Evansville IceMen at Memorial Coliseum.
We wanted to see how training camp and the exhibition games went on, and how the younger guys and returning guys played, general manager David Franke said. We decided, between myself, (coach Al Sims and president Michael Franke), maybe it was time to turn the page.
P.C. has had a heck of a career. He played in the NHL, which most players dont get to do at all. He had a great career with us. When Colin Chaulk went down with the MRSA staph infection (in 2008-09), P.C. stepped up like the guy he is and put the team on his back, (scoring 32 goals and 98 points in 75 games), absolutely carried us. But its time to start bringing in new faces, younger players, players we can hopefully develop and maybe they play for us for (many) years. Thats the mode were going.
Last season, Drouin had 14 goals and 44 points in 61 games, as the Komets were in last place until February and were eliminated in the Turner Conference semifinals by Rapid City.
Im a little shocked and surprised, and I really dont want to comment right now, Drouin said.
Drouin came into training camp saying he was in his best shape since 1996-97, when he played three NHL games with the Boston Bruins. He believed this would be his last season in professional hockey. But he also knew no spots were guaranteed and that returning players including centers Leo Thomas and Danny Lapointe and defenseman Brandon Warner were on the bubble.
Thomas, Lapointe and Warner made the team, though Warner is on injured reserve with a hip injury.
I would say its difficult and surprising for most of the guys. P.C. has been here for a long time, and hes been a special player, said Chaulk, the Komets captain.
Obviously, management believes they have the pieces in place to overcome a move like this. P.C. has got a lot of talent. He can quarterback the power play, and hes coming off a good playoffs. We had a good team, and I dont know if management is thinking they should move on with a new group of core guys. But if P.C. Drouin was your third-line left wing, that meant we had a pretty good team.
With his family entrenched in Fort Wayne, Drouin would have limited options now if he wants to continue playing. Dayton is the only CHL team within four hours.
We may suffer some growing pains, Franke said. But its time to give some other players the chance. P.C. is one of the classiest players weve had play for us. Thats without a doubt. Hes part of the Komet family forever. But its sad.