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Komets deal away captain after slow start, benching


– 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 a 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 (6-5-3) also waived Matt Firman and placed Brett Lyon on suspension. According to Graham, there was a difference of opinion with Lyon on what his role should be, and he left the team.

“We don’t have the ice time to provide him the role that he wants it to be,” said Graham, who may trade Lyon’s rights.

The Komets last traded a captain midseason in 1996-97, when it was Craig Duncanson.

Graham will not immediately name a new captain. He may go with three alternates for now, 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.”

Tuzzolino hopes it works out for all parties involved.

“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.”