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Musings on affiliation, lockout

First of all, I'm wondering, are more of you fans of the Anaheim Ducks today?

In case you missed it, the Komets are now the AA-level affiliate of the Bruce Boudreau-coached Ducks. Click here.

Let's analyze this for a moment.

When it comes to the fans of the Komets, I think this is very good, but also a touch scary.

When it comes to the players, I'm not so sure it's as good as one might think.

Let me explain.

As we all know, the NHL is likely going to lock out its players if a new collective bargaining agreement isn't reached by Sept 15. That could mean an abbreviated or canceled season -- as if we haven't been through that before -- and it will have a profound affect on Fort Wayne.

If there is an NHL lockout, it's going to mean a higher level of talent will be in the minors. All those fringe NHL/American Hockey League players will be in the AHL, bumping some players to the ECHL and so on. (Though, there will be several players that go to Europe for more money.)

This means that the Komets could see some players from Anaheim or Norfolk of the American Hockey League that they wouldn't otherwise see. It also means there's a greater chance that goaltender Kenny Reiter, who is on a two-way contract with Bridgeport of the AHL, will be here.

So in that sense, it's great news for the fans. But the bad news -- lockout or not -- is that any player who does well with Fort Wayne will have a better chance of being called up. That's always the downside of an affiliation.

As for the players, having this affiliation gives them a greater chance of making a higher-level club. We already know that Brandon Marino, Chris Auger and Jean-Michel Rizk will get tryouts in Norfolk -- and that Daniel Maggio will have one with Chicago of the AHL -- and being able to provide them that spot helped the Komets in their quest to sign them this summer.

Even now, the Komets are trying to persuade Frankie DeAngelis to re-sign, and one of the things they can offer him is a spot in Norfolk's camp.

But because of the labor uncertainty in the NHL, the odds of those guys making the AHL roster are slimmer than they would normally be. (I think Auger has the best chance of making the Norfolk roster.)

Let's face it, most of the time, if a player is good enough to make the AHL, he's already been signed by one of its teams. This year, it's going to be tougher than in most to disprove that notion.

But there are possibilities now that there's a full-fledged affiliation. We may actually see NHL scouts in Fort Wayne, and I haven't seen many of those since 1999.

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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