The Komets are getting so close to selecting their next head coach that an announcement is expected next week.
While the front-runner is believed to be Ben Boudreau, who spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Komets but has no head-coaching experience, general manager David Franke was firm that no decision has yet been made.
“We've talked to quality people who have been in and out of the league as coaches, some people who have been in Europe or college coaching, just a wide variety,” Franke said. “Ben Boudreau is still definitely in the running, but we have some very good candidates and I think over this weekend, we'll all collectively think about it. And next week, we should make a decision and get it announced and get the recruiting (of players) started.”
While most fans perceive that the decision lies with Franke and his brother Michael, who is team president, it's important to note that Stephen Franke is the CEO and primary owner and must endorse any selection. Also, Scott Sproat, executive vice president and co-owner, has a significant say in who will replace Gary Graham.
This is the most intensive coaching search the Komets have had since they hired Pat Bingham in 2006. His replacement, Al Sims, had coached the Komets previously. And Graham had been groomed by Sims.
With Graham having accrued a 251-130-51 regular-season record, playoff berths in all six of his seasons and two trips to the conference finals before his May 13 firing, this hiring will be highly scrutinized.
Asked what prerequisites the next coach must have, David Franke said: “He's got to be somebody that the players will respect and that brings professionalism to the table. He must have a deep respect for everybody involved in the game itself. And be somebody that's a good communicator and somebody that will take the time to work with players and teach them more if they need help in one area or another.
“But that's what everybody is looking for. We're going to make the decision based on our comfort level. It's not going to be easy, but that's part of the process.”
Franke declined to name any of the “probably a half-dozen candidates.”
However, multiple sources told The Journal Gazette that Richard Matvichuk and Scott Hillman are in the mix.
Matvichuk, 46, played 919 NHL games with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars and the New Jersey Devils. He was part of Dallas' 1999 Stanley Cup-winning team.
He was an assistant coach with the Allen Americans from 2012 to 2014, when they won two Central Hockey League championships. He was selected the ECHL's Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year in 2016, after his second season with the Missouri Mavericks.
He became coach of the junior-level Western Hockey League's Prince George Cougars in 2016 and was fired midway through this season.
Hillman, 45, a longtime player in the CHL, coached the Southern Professional Hockey League's Knoxville Ice Bears to championships in 2008 and 2009. He coached the Mavericks from 2009 to 2014, making the playoffs every season.
He was the Indy Fuel's first coach and with the Fuel from 2014 to 2016. Last summer, he was behind Norwegian team Frisk Asker's signing away of Shawn Szydlowski and Garrett Thompson from the Komets, though he was fired in December from the eventual championship team.
Boudreau, 34, is the son of former Komets player and coach Bruce Boudreau, currently the Minnesota Wild's coach.
Ben Boudreau, who has five years of ECHL experience as an assistant coach, is listed among the speakers for the prominent Roger Neilson Coaches Clinic, June 7 to 9 in Windsor, Ontario. He will present on “Positioning in Today's Game.”
Other speakers will include: Bruce Boudreau; Vancouver Canucks director of player development Scott Walker, Nashville Predators assistant coach Dan Muse, Chicago Blackhawks goaltending coach Peter Aubry and several other noted hockey people.