As bad as members of Komets management, the players and the fans feel about not making the ECHL playoffs this season, there are two people who feel as bad or worse than anyone else. Because of injuries, Nick Boucher and Chris Auger couldn't do anything to change this season, and it's still hurting them.
``It has been extremely hard,'' Auger said. ``I've heard comments from guys saying we wouldn't be in this situation if I had been playing. I wouldn't say that, but I'd like to think I'd have made some difference.''
There have been a few games of late when both players look like they want to turn from the ice and throw up. Boucher described sitting in the press box or in the stands watching the game as a powerless feeling. They know there's nothing they could have done, but that doesn't help.
``It's been harder lately as the team has started to really struggle,'' Boucher said. ``It's been hard to watch the team start spiraling. That's when it has really started to be difficult to watch the games.''
The starting goaltender on four Komets' championship teams, Boucher has missed this season after having both hips operated on last summer. Then in February he had wrist surgery.
Auger, the leading goal scorer on last year's Central Hockey League championship team, suffered a season-ending knee injury four games into the current season.
Both have resumed skating recently and will play next year. They hope to play in Fort Wayne.
``We've had good goalies here this year, and if I was on the team all year, we'd probably be in the same spot,'' Boucher said. ``We lacked goal scoring, and Chris is a guy who scores and produces points. He maybe feels he could have made a difference. I'm not sure of that on my end, maybe a slight difference. He may feel more of that burden than I do.''
The only positive is that both are going through successful rehabilitation. Boucher recently started putting his pads on again and has spent the past two months working with local youth goalies.
Auger has seen major improvement recently and knows he's on pace to be ready to go for training camp in September.
Watching this season has affected them on many levels.
``It's hard to believe something that happened that early in the season could have that much of an effect, but it did,'' Auger said. ``I feel bad for a lot of the guys because a lot of careers are in the drains. There are a lot of guys who will have a hard time finding jobs right now.''
Boucher said he'd prefer to play in Fort Wayne next season, perhaps as a backup goaltender to a younger player. He believes he could have a positive impact on helping a younger player develop while maybe playing 30-plus games.
He could retire but wants to play again. Winning a championship last spring while playing on two hips that needed surgery and a knee injury from the semifinals would have been an easy way to go out.
``I miss it,'' he said. ``It's like any guy who stops playing. It's been part of your life as long as you can remember. I could leave and go out on a high note having won the way we did, but I'd like to see what it's like to play healthy again and not have to battle through everything on a day-to-day basis.
``I'm 32. Not 36, 37. I came off one of the best years of my career and my production was not going downhill. I was in the all-star game and won a championship. It was one of the two or three best years that I had. It's been so long ago, I don't really remember when I felt this good about stuff.''