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K's, captain part ways

Defenseman Nick Tuzzolino's tenure as the Komets' captain was short – just 13 games – and mired with spotty play.

He had one goal, seven points and team-worst minus-17 rating.

The Komets traded Tuzzolino to the Elmira Jackals on Monday for defenseman Jordon Southorn.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall Sunday, when Tuzzolino was scratched from the lineup by coach Gary Graham, a night after Graham publicly lambasted Tuzzolino, Mickey Lang, Mike Vaskivuo and Jace Coyle.

The Komets went on to defeat Evansville 5-4, led by Lang's hat trick.

But Tuzzolino didn't see a trade coming.

"It was definitely shocking, to say the least," Tuzzolino said. "I had a couple of conversations in the last couple of days with Gary and (general manager David Franke). Nothing was pointing to this. Obviously, the boys picked up the win last night after Gary called out a couple of guys. This is what they went with. It's a business. What's to say? Crap rolls downhill sometimes."

Graham said the decision to part ways with Tuzzolino, 27, was a difficult one and that Tuzzolino wasn't the only one at fault for the relationship not working.

"It was a very difficult decision," Graham said. "There was a lot of thought. A long night last night pondering where we want to go. When you make a move like this, as a coach, my No. 1 thing is to get the best out of the players and let the team be successful. We're failing on two fronts.

"This move will be good for Nick. A change of scenery will be good for him. And it will be for our organization as well. I think the world of Nick as a player. He wasn't off to the start he wanted and I'm sure he can turn it around. I take accountability as well. It's my job to get the best out of my guys and I didn't do it with Nick."

Southorn, a fourth-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2008, played 64 games last season with the Jackals and had 11 goals, 34 points and a plus-27 rating. In three games this season, he's got one goal, four points and an even rating.

The Komets also waived Matt Firman and placed recently acquired Brett Lyon on suspension. According to Graham, there was a difference of opinion with Lyon on what his role with the team should be. The Komets acquired him from Bakersfield for his grit, but he wanted to do more.

"We don't have the ice time to provide him the role that he wants it to be," said Graham, adding they are looking to trade Lyon.

Graham will not immediately name a new captain. He may go with three alternates in the short-term, including Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Brandon Marino.

"This is something where I need to take a look in the mirror as well," Graham said. "We need to use this moment as a team to move forward in the right direction. It's accountability and understanding where we need to be. The message from me needs to be consistent. We're only interested in guys who want to put the work in, put it in the right way, do it the Komet way. You have to be responsible with and without the puck."

Tuzzolino hopes it works out for all parties involved.

"At the end of the day, it is a business. It's a city that needs a good hockey club here," he said. "When you're sliding or there are a couple hiccups, they've got to make their move or statements when they can. I'm sure some fans think it's a good move and if it rejuvenates the team, it's a good move. I feel like I let down Dave and Gary."

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