Behind two goals by Thomas Beauregard, the Komets beat the Kalamazoo Wings on Saturday night to finish the season with a 33-35-4 record, including 16-20-0 at home and 17-15-4 on the road.
After the game, coach Al Sims addressed the media on many of the issues the Komets faced this season.
It's weird ending up this early, isn't it?
Well, it's a feeling I don't want to forget. I want to remember this feeling, being out of the playoffs and done at the end of March. We usually aren't done until May or into May. This is something I want to remember because I never want it to happen again.
You've done the rebuild before, and it looks like it's going to have to be done again.
It was like the first year in the CHL, trying to come back and finding out what you need to win in that league. I think we've learned a lot this year, a lot about affiliations, the strengths you can get from affiliations. You look at a team like Cincinnati. A lot of people say affiliations aren't good, but they have two of them. Reading I think has two affiliations, and some of the top teams in the league have two affiliations. Affiliations for this league I think are a positive. Our affiliation helped us big-time this year with Josh Brittain the first 20 games, players like Lasch and Caputi when they came in, Schaus and especially Deslauriers. You can't say enough about us getting an NHL goaltender to play with us the last month of the season. It was very helpful, and at times it hurt us a little bit.
The big hurt came with Kenny Reiter going up and not coming back, Maggio going up and getting signed, and great for those guys. I wish them all the best. That's why we're here to push guys like that through. It certainly did hurt our hockey team, and it's difficult to replace players like Maggio and Reiter and Colin Chaulk. I think he had 20 points in 22 games when he went out and never really came back to be the player he was. We missed 60-70 points from Colin, and that means maybe 60-70 goals that he would have been responsible for that would have helped us offensively.
There are a lot of excuses you can bring up, but other teams had injury problems, too, and call-up problems. I think depth is a big thing in this league. You have to be deep and keep your depth because when you lose four or five guys you have to be able to continue on and continue winning.
What do you have to do to get that depth?
I think once we get our team here and we are deep, and we get maybe six or eight pros in there, we have to keep the guys those pros are pushing out around. We can't just cut them and send them home and whatever and lose like Thorne who goes to Toledo and becomes their 10th forward and plays very well. We have to find a way to keep players around that we know are going to play and we know are good and we know they are not playing maybe because a pro is taking their spot.
What would be some other areas you want to do things differently in?
I think size and skating. I think you guys all know that the teams in the league were bigger than we were, especially on defense. We have to get kids, we're looking at six-feet and above and kids who are great skaters. We have the biggest ice surface in the league, and we need fast skaters to excel in this arena. That's what we're going to go after next years, a lot of size, speed and skill.
You're talking a lot of ``We.'' This includes you?
We'll see. I have to talk to David and Michael. We'll all get together and see where we're at.
What did you learn this year?
I think I learned a lot about the league. It's a tough league. We were going along there pretty good, three points out of first place and playing Cincinnati three games in a row and all of a sudden the bricks started to fall out of the house. We replaced them with the John Dunbars, the Mike Hobans, and kids like that, Wheeler and people like that, but they are Daniel Maggio and Colin Chaulk. They can be a stop-gap measure, but you lose something there. Like I said, depth and size. We were a very small team in this league. Credit goes to Smitty and Dunbar and all these kids who battled these bigger players, but we have to kids who are 6-1, 6-2, especially on the back end, and we have to have a goaltender who can come through for us on a consistent basis.
How do you get those guys? Do you think the Komets need two affiliations?
I think it's something we look at. David and Michael and I need to talk about that and decide that and see what is best for our situation here and what's best for us.
Do you go out scouting now?
Well, I definitely want to see teams play in the playoffs because I think you can protect 20 players and by July 1 you have to sign eight of them and you can can only sign eight of them and the rest become free agents the next day. Maybe you can sign maybe a third of your team or half of your team, but half of your team is going to be available. There are some very good teams who have good players who are their ninth, 10th or 11th players, and we have to identify those guys and go after them and hopefully sign some of them.
Do you go to the NCAA Tournament?
That's a possibility, but I think those kids who are in those situations, most of those are NHL contract kids. Most of those kids from the big schools are already spoken for. With Lowell winning and Yale going to the Final Four I think there will be some kids on those two teams who will be available.
What was wrong with the power play?
think it's talent. It comes down to talent and execution. We didn't have the scoring talent we've had in years past and it showed especially on the power play where you need scoring and guys like Syroczynksi, Chaulk, Frankie DeAngelis and Milam, people like that who can execute on the power play, and we just never had it all year.
When you are using Scott Kishel on the power play, a rookie who never played the power play in college, those are the type of things we had to do because of our numbers situations at times. Using Hegarty, he never played the power play at Maine. When Schaus came we had a little bit of a power play with him and Milam back there and we scored a few goals. It's difficult when you don't have the guys who can execute.
Do you think that was the biggest problem at home?
I think there are a lot of teams with special teams down where we are who are in the playoffs. Greenville, South Carolina, other teams that were terrible on the power play and on special teams and they are in the playoffs. I think five-on-five scoring was our biggest problem. We didn't get enough. We couldn't get past two a lot of nights and that really hurt us, especially at home. I think we scored a lot more... I think we were three-quarters of a goal better on the road than we were at home, and those were the differences in a lot of wins.
How do you feel about this whole thing just at this moment?
I think my feeling is disappointment. I definitely thought we were going to make the playoffs, especially at the end of January, early-February. It's disappointing for our organization, our players, the coaching staff, management the fans. It's just a big disappointment. You don't win every year in sports and this reality settled in on us this year, and it's a difficult thing to continue winning. We've had six years of probably maybe the most wins of any AA hockey club out there. Thirty-two wins isn't a bad season, but we needed 36, 37 to get into the playoffs. It's not that big a jump, but next year we can't have that falter of six losses in a row and four losses at the end of the season here. It's a learning experience and hopefully we'll grow from it and be better next year.
Do you think that half, less than half of the guys will be back next year? How do you look at that?
I think it will be less than half who will come back.