Thursday, May 23, 2019 12:00 am
On K's, Kings and Kelly Cup finals
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
I posited the idea last week that an affiliation between the Komets and NHL's Los Angeles Kings could be a potentially good union, now that the Kings' ECHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, have folded.
I wonder if the best setup would actually be this: having a dual affiliation with the Kings and the Vegas Golden Knights, who were the Komets' NHL partner this season.
This would seem to be a beneficial situation for the Komets, Kings and Golden Knights.
The Komets do like the Golden Knights and envision them being a good-long term partner. Despite the claims that next season would be different because the Golden Knights will have more prospects in their minor-league system, I would have the same concerns next season that I did heading into this season: the Golden Knights are still so young that they would still only have a handful of players I could see coming to Fort Wayne; and the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves do not have a history of being a good partner with ECHL teams, something that was not only reinforced this season but also crystallized in the lack of interest the Wolves seemed to have in even acknowledging the good play of Zach Fucale in Fort Wayne in something as small as social media.
Now, a year or two from now, could the Golden Knights be excellent partners? Absolutely.
The connection with the Kings could be potentially more fruitful, at least in the short term, especially since senior pro scout Robbie Laird is a former player and coach with the Komets. If nothing else, at least one season with the Komets would give the Kings time to really figure out what they want to do moving forward with their minor-league system, which includes an AHL team in Ontario, California -- not exactly a stone's throw from Fort Wayne. And, frankly, I don't know that the Golden Knights would complain about having some extra time because it would do the same for them.
The only hiccup I see personnel wise would be the potential for both teams sending NHL-contracted goalies to Fort Wayne. That would be a dream scenario for the Komets, who had to contend with Toledo and Cincinnati being absolutely stocked with players from the NHL and AHL levels. One thing I've learned through the years is there are plenty of goalie minutes to go around in the regular season; it's in the postseason when NHL teams seem to get peeved about who is playing with their affiliates (re: the Colorado Avalanche). ]
Now, the ECHL might have something to say about my little dual-affiliation plan, especially since Rapid City and Greenville were without affiliations. But anyone looking from the outside looking in at the Komets' season with Vegas may not, in my opinion, be that keen on signing on for that just yet. And if a team like the Kings were to say, 'Hey, we want to affiliate (or have a less-formal working agreement) with Fort Wayne, too,' then that could trump whatever the ECHL wants.
- Still no update on the Komets' search for a head coach, though several candidates have gone through the interview process. That includes Ben Boudreau, the Fort Wayne assistant coach, who appears to be the front runner. Richard Matvichuk, a former NHL defenseman, has also been interviewed, according to multiple sources. He was an assistant on the Allen Americans’ championship teams, the ECHL’s Coach of the Year with the Missouri Mavericks in 2016 and had most recently been in the Western Hockey League before being fired midway through this season.
- The Toledo Walleye has advanced to the Kelly Cup finals, after defeating the Tulsa Oilers 6-2 in Game 7 tonight at Tulsa, Oklahoma. That means the Walleye, which ousted Fort Wayne in the first round, will take on the Newfoundland Growlers. That series will begin Saturday in St. John's, Newfoundland, with a 2-3-2 format. Remember, former Komets goaltender Pat Nagle is with the Walleye.