Its the all-star break and the Komets are atop the CHL at 22-9-1. Thats an improvement of 10 victories and 18 points over last season, when the Komets were in last place.
Heres a look at how the Komets, who have won 17 of their last 22 games, grade so far:
Nick Boucher is the early favorite for CHL MVP. He leads the league in wins (19) and shutouts (3), and hes second in goals-against average (2.30) and save percentage (.920). Although he has a great, second-ranked defense (2.66 goals against per game) playing in front of him, the key has been his consistency despite playing 27 games, three more than any other goalie. Backup Gerry Festa has played only one game since being acquired, but he should be excellent.
Led by Jamie Milam (11 goals, 23 points) and Frankie DeAngelis (7 goals, 20 points), the Komets get a lot of offense from the back end. Thats especially true on their top-ranked power play. But the defensemen have made great strides, in particular, in defending speedy forwards. Credit the emergence of Bryant and Dustin Molle, who are plus-14 and plus-8, respectively. They match up against top lines. Brent Henley and David Starenky have brought a physical presence, too. The Komets just need to cut down on defensive penalties.
All-star Brett Smith (14 goals, 41 points) has a point in all but five games, and Bobby Chaumont (14 goals, 39 points) has been much more consistent than expected. Chris Auger and rookie Jean-Michel Rizk, who have combined for 37 points, have given the Komets, who rank second in offense (3.66 goals per game), unsurpassed depth. The Komets just need more consistent scoring from captain Colin Chaulk, Jesse Bennefield, Artem Podshendyalov and Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock. And the Komets need better selection among their 35.3 shots per game. But the forwards have done an excellent job back-checking, key in their systems.
Al Sims has done a good job finding the right line combinations, despite having only eight players back from last season. And with the leadership of Chaulk, Smith and Schrock, he doesnt have to meddle much. The Komets fall flat in some periods, forcing them to make comebacks, so an emphasis on more hitting would improve the teams energy.
The Komets rank first on the power play (25.5 percent efficiency) but need to improve their penalty killing, where they rank fifth (82.8 percent). Killing penalties is especially important since the Komets have been short-handed a league-high 170 times. Some of that is because of inexperience, but they seem to be missing the fourth consistent defenseman for killing penalties, too.
General manager David Franke hit home runs with the signings of Smith and Milam, who led Bossier-Shreveport to the CHL title last season. He got Bennefield inexpensively – in a trade with Wichita for Craig Cescon – and Festa came for seldom-used Tristin Llewellyn. Sims also deserves credit for helping recruit players. If theres anyone they need to bring in, its another steady defenseman and a forward to get traffic in front of the net.