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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
The Komets signed Brett Smith after the Bossier-Shreveport franchise folded.

Leadership among new center’s strengths

– The uniform is different. So is the town.

But for Brett Smith, the mentality is the same as it would have been were he still in Shreveport, La., donning a Mudbug on his jersey.

“I’m still defending the Cup in my mind,” said Smith, who was the Komets’ biggest free-agent acquisition over the summer, after he captained the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs to the CHL championship last season.

“It was bittersweet,” the 30-year-old center said. “It was exciting to win and I’m glad we brought that Cup to Shreveport because it’s a great place with great fans. There are great people all around. But when you find out two weeks later that the team is gone, it’s sad but nice to go out on top.”

Citing the difficult economics in minor-league hockey, the Mudbugs suspended operations.

The Komets, who are beginning their 60th consecutive season, got two players from Bossier-Shreveport: Smith and defenseman Jamie Milam, 27, who had a short stint with the Komets in 2006.

The expectations are so high for Smith that he is being compared to Colin Chaulk, one of the greatest leaders in the franchise’s history.

“It just speaks volumes about Brett winning the championship last year and what he helped do with that team. It’s very similar to what (five-time team MVP) Colin Chaulk has done here,” Komets coach Al Sims said.

“He leads by example. He’s not so much a guy who talks in the (locker) room, but he definitely shows guys how to play with his effort and work ethic.”

Smith had 20 goals and 55 points in 57 games last season, then two goals and 17 points in 21 playoff games. He said his game isn’t as pretty as his statistics.

“I’m tenacious and high-energy,” the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder from Guelph, Ontario. “I’m not going to score the prettiest goals, but I’ll bang them home. I like to get in the corners and muck it up. I like to cause a little trouble out there.”

Smith is also capable of playing wing, but he expects to be the No. 2 center behind Chaulk when the regular season opens today at Memorial Coliseum against Evansville.

“I like being down low,” Smith said. “I’m fairly consistent on faceoffs, so I would expect to be in the middle.”

The Komets made several offseason acquisitions, including forward Jesse Bennefield, who had 35 goals and 75 points with Wichita last season, and Bobby Chaumont, who had 22 goals and 53 points in Scotland.

“It’s a good mix we have,” Smith said. “We’ve got a lot of guys from a lot of different places, and they’re going to bring a lot of different experiences, and (the youngsters) will contribute with the old guys.”