The Komets plan to announce Thursday who will be Ben Boudreau's assistant coach. We now know that it won't be Jamie Schaafsma.
Assuming it's Olivier Legault -- and right now that's just an assumption -- that had to be a tough call. Go with a guy you know and/or has experience behind the bench; or go with a guy who has been a beloved player here and is also a former teammate.
Now, me, I'm surprised the Komets decided not to bring Schaafsma back as a player. He was MVP last season because he was the glue in the locker room amid personnel changes and so versatile on the ice. Heck even as a sixth defenseman, I could see the benefits. And those would seem to be traits the Komets will need in the coming season.
That being said, I can see the arguments against it, too. Schaafsma is 36, on the more expensive side when it comes to salary, and the antithesis of this youth movement the team says it wants.
As for him being an assistant coach, consider this: If things go roughly for Boudreau at the start, how long would it have been before the fans started calling for Schaafsma to be the head coach? It's not like we haven't seen that narrative play out around here before. Maybe it was just smart to take that element out of the equation, but we can debate that for hours.
One has to wonder -- and this has been said to me by three people in the last couple hours -- that if the Komets didn't still have to pay Gary Graham for the coming season, would they maybe have opted to keep Schaafsma as a second assistant? Valid question and I don't know the answer, but I will say it seems weird you would give Gary Graham two assistants and Boudreau, who hasn't been a head coach before, only one. Unless Boudreau wanted it that way or they have a different plan, like maybe using some of the many hockey people in town as unofficial assistants, err, consultants.
Here's what general manager David Franke had to say about Schaafsma ...
“Here’s the deal: No. 1, Jamie’s a veteran and he’ll be 37 years old. As a player, we felt it was time to move on,” Franke said. “As an assistant coach, with Ben being the head coach, we’re only going to have one assistant coach this year … and because we weren’t going to bring Jamie back as a player and there wasn’t a coaching opportunity here, he’ll become a free agent.”
Also, Franke said: “Jamie did a heck of a job for us. He was a great captain, a great family guy with a wonderful wife and four beautiful kids. I wish it would have worked out, but we’re in a big transition mode here. I don’t expect any more than five, six maybe seven guys being back on the team for the upcoming season. We’re going to be going about our job of rebuilding the core this summer.
“The core we had with Jamie, Cody Sol and some of those players … that core group is pretty much gone now and it will be up to us to build that new core group. That’s always been that successful recipe for us: If we have a good core group of guys that are a good group of guys on and off the ice, and are leaders in their owns ways, it’s always good to have that base when you’re trying to build around it and put a team together.”
On a personal note, I have to say Schaafsma has been a class act. Not once -- not a single time -- did he decline an interview and I can't think of a single other player that was here here for any length of time that I can say that about. Part of a captain's job in Fort Wayne, as I see it, is being willing to talk even after the toughest of losses, and he was my go-to guy for that. On and off the ice, Schaafsma represented Fort Wayne well; I saw it on the ice, in schools, everywhere.
So, the next question is, who will be the Komets' next captain? With apologies to Brady Shaw, mostly because he's been in the pros for only three years, I'm not sure the next captain was on last season's roster. I've covered some amazing captains here, namely Colin Chaulk and Schaafsma, and some poor ones, and the good ones came in with immediate cache and just were real lead-by-example guys. It's easy to just stitch the 'C' on a guy you know. That doesn't make it the best choice. It's got to be a person that every player in the locker room is going to believe in and listen to when times are good and bad. It's also got to be guy who keeps the locker room loose, and Schaafsma and Sol did that.