The Komets have only two defensemen back from last seasons championship squad. And one of them, rookie Daniel Maggio, played only 15 playoff games after leaving his junior team, the Oshawa Generals.
Were looking for anybody to pick up the slack for the players we lost, namely (Jamie) Milam and (Frankie) DeAngelis, Komets coach Al Sims said.
Last season, DeAngelis scored 18 goals and 46 points in 66 games and was selected to the all-league team, but he retired. Milam had 20 goals and 41 points in 66 games but opted to play in Europe.
The Komets also lost Bryant Molle, Jamie Lovell and David Starenky.
That has put the bulk of the pressure on three defensemen: Maggio, newcomer Tyler Butler and Brent Henley, who shared the Komets Defenseman of the Year award last season with DeAngelis.
None of them will play under more pressure than Maggio, 21, who is essentially going from the No. 6 defenseman to the No. 2, with responsibilities on the power play and to bring a physical presence to the lineup in the ECHL, in which the Komets play their first game Friday against the Kalamazoo Wings at Memorial Coliseum.
Im pretty excited to be back here, said Maggio, who had been in training camp with Chicago of the American Hockey League, then scored the overtime winner in a 2-1 preseason victory over Evansville on Sunday.
Having won a championship gives me a little more confidence this year to improve what I have, and Im looking forward to it.
Sims, who played as an NHL defenseman, doesnt mind the challenge of grooming a new corps of defensemen, but it will be a challenge with so many new faces.
If we had (those guys from last season) here, there would be a lot less decisions or worrying about our power play units and who will play here or there, Sims said.
But if Butler can get 30 or 40 points, and if Maggio can get 30 or 40 points, that would really help.
The other defensemen the Komets have include Scott Kishel, Kyle Atkins, Danial Nycholat, Ryan Hegarty and Jeremy Gates. But Sims isnt sure yet who can make an impact on the power play, so center Colin Chaulk has run the point on the first unit with Butler.
Weve got so many offensive guys (up front), its hard to get everybody on the power play, Sims said.
Maggio will certainly get his chance to score power-play goals, as he did with the winner Sunday.
Him and Stephone Thorne and Jean-Michel Rizk, they look like different players this season, Sims said. They look like men, whereas they looked like boys last (season). They really look like they put in the work over the summer.
Talent is one thing, though, and when it comes to putting together a good defense, you need cohesiveness between the partners in back.
Youve got to know where everyone is, especially for defensemen, Maggio said. Theres got to be a lot of talking out there and having good outlets (to break the puck out) is important, too. Itll take some time, but hopefully itll be sooner rather than later (that it comes together).
Note: There are about 2,500 tickets remaining for the Komets season opener Friday against Kalamazoo at the Coliseum.