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K’s to remain an independent team for now

– The Cincinnati Cyclones had nine players contracted to their NHL parent clubs, the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators, and another three contracted to teams in the American Hockey League. The Komets only NHL contracted player was forward Shawn Szydlowski, who was in the final season of a deal with the Buffalo Sabres.

Yet the Komets don’t believe the lack of an affiliation was why they fell 4-2 to the Cyclones in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals, and they have no immediate plans to pursue an affiliation. The team was affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks in 2012-13.

“I like what we did this year,” said Komets president Michael Franke, whose team improved by three victories and 14 points this season after missing the playoffs last year and ousted the defending champion Reading Royals 4-1 in the first round.

“We needed to come up with new players who would be Komet players for years to come, and I think we accomplished that goal.”

Of the ECHL’s three independent teams, Fort Wayne made it the furthest. Colorado and Las Vegas both lost in the postseason’s first round, combining for two victories in the Western Conference, where all eight teams made the playoffs.

The Komets are open to discussions with NHL teams but aren’t wild about the uncertainty affiliations bring. When they were aligned with Anaheim, they counted on getting sent prospects regularly and received very little.

Some ECHL teams get bolstered before the playoffs because the parent clubs want their prospects to get the experience. Wade Megan and Logan Shaw were sent to Cincinnati after the regular season.

Chances of ECHL teams adding prospects improve if the higher-level affiliates don’t make the postseason.

Sometimes, the inverse happens. The ECHL’s Florida Everblades were decimated by call-ups after winning 18 of their first 26 games and finished 37-27-8, two points behind Fort Wayne for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.

“That’s something you consider every year,” Franke said of an affiliation. “But the Cyclones are in a fortunate situation this year because one of their (AHL) affiliates (San Antonio) didn’t make the playoffs and the other (Milwaukee) got eliminated in the first round.

“So, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. This year, it’s worked out really well for the Cincinnati Cyclones. But look at Florida. They had one of the best teams in the (ECHL) the first half of the season, and they lost half their players. You just never know.”

Even though the Komets were led in playoff scoring by Szydlowski’s six goals and 11 points in 11 games, they proved as a team they could compete with the Cyclones. The Komets won the first and fourth games and two of the losses came in overtime.

For now, the Komets would prefer to build on their independent model and prioritize chemistry over the possible rewards of an affiliation.

“I think that what you end up setting yourself up for now, which we didn’t have after last season, is now we have some built-in depth on our team because we have a core group of guys I feel can play at this level and be successful at this level,” Komets coach Gary Graham said.

The problem will be convincing prospective players that they’ll have a chance to get called up by playing for the independent Komets. The only players called from Fort Wayne to the AHL this season were Jordon Southorn, Jace Coyle, Scott Fleming, Cody Reichard, John Muse and Andrey Makarov.

Makarov, who was under contract to the Sabres, and Muse, who played only the season-opening game with the Komets, were the only players not sent back down.

jcohn@jg.net

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