FORT WAYNE – It’s hard to fathom Al Sims not coming back to coach the Komets next season.
He’s won four championships in the last five years, including capturing the Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup on Monday. He has five titles in nine seasons as the Komets’ head coach, dating to 1993.
But when Sims was asked whether he’ll be back next season, when the Komets likely head to the ECHL, he said only, Uh, we’ll see.
Komets president Michael Franke and general manager David Franke said they expect Sims, 59, to accept the contract offer he’s had for weeks. But he could draw interests from other teams after winning the CHL championship.
Some Fort Wayne players were of the thinking just weeks ago that the Komets would look for a different type of coach as they moved to a different type of league. The ECHL is stocked with younger players and more NHL prospects than the CHL or IHL.
And Sims’ time with the Komets has been marked by his use of veteran players.
But Sims’ tenure is unparalleled in the franchise’s 60-year history. Sims has a regular-season record of 404-215-70 and a playoff mark of 67-38.
His first championship, in the IHL in 1993, preceded three years as an assistant coach with Anaheim of the NHL, a season as head coach with the San Jose Sharks of the NHL (he was 27-47-8), then stops in Milwaukee, Reading, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth and Flint, where he was the general manager.
Since returning to the Komets in 2007, he’s 223-97-40 in the regular season and 38-21 in the playoffs. Perhaps his finest work came in this year’s finals against Wichita. Fort Wayne won the series 4-1, culminating with a 6-3 victory Monday at Memorial Coliseum.
The Thunder won the regular-season championship, but it was clearly unprepared for the Komets. Sims’ and assistant Gary Graham’s use of video to prepare scouting reports could have given Fort Wayne an edge in the series.
We do video all year. We’ve done it since I came here (in 2007), said Sims, adding they look at themselves and opponents. Our guys get prepared like National Hockey League guys get prepared. All the things I learned with San Jose of the NHL, this team gets – professional scouting reports, video, they get everything. They’re well prepared.
Wichita coach Kevin McClelland, who like Sims had an illustrious NHL career, doesn’t break down opponents’ tendencies on film. The Thunder didn’t borrow on things Rapid City and Missouri did to give Fort Wayne fits in the first two playoff rounds, while the Komets knew plenty about the Thunder’s weaknesses – namely that it wouldn’t be able to handle Fort Wayne’s speed.
Sims acknowledged he’s not always the easiest coach to play for, but he clearly enjoyed the celebratory cheer he got from his players and fans after hoisting the Cup.
Everybody hates the coach until he wins a championship, he said. So, I have to win four in five years for people to give me a hand, I guess.
But will Sims be back with the Komets next season?
I’m enjoying it in the moment right now. It feels like the best championship ever, Sims said.