Archive for November, 2005

Interesting numbers

November 30, 2005

I was talking with UHL Vice President of Hockey Operations Brad Jones today about a few topics and he gave me some interesting statistics I thought I’d share.

Six weeks into the 2004-05 season there had been 125 high sticking minors, 134 for holding, 134 for hooking and 181 for slashing.

Six weeks into this season — with 10 more games on the schedule for one more team — there have been 159 calls for high sticking, 188 holding calls, 340 hooking call and 203 slashing minors.

"This tells me that the standard that we’ve enforced in regards to restraining fouls is being adhered to by the referees,” Jones said. "Obviously the biggest area is the hooking, which we expected. We were looking at eliminating clutching and grabbing and that often leads to hooking.”

Jones said there’s also been 16 unsportsmanlike conduct calls for diving this season. That has to increase.

I’m of the opinion, the stricter the calls the better. The players will adjust because they’ll have to, and we’ll have a better game because of it. Force them to move their feet the way the game was designed. For the most part, this year’s games have been much more interesting in terms of pace of play and flow of the game.

I expect the Komets will make some adjustments this weekend after coach Greg Puhalski’s admonition last week. At least they better make some adjustments before Puhalski has to make some adjustments of his own.

Another interesting number I just found: The winning percentage of Komets’ opponents heading into games is .622. No wonder the Komets think they have played the league’s toughest schedule. It will get even tougher this weekend.

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A worthy cause

November 30, 2005

I don’t know how many of you got to read the story I did about a month ago about Kevin St. Pierre and his relationship with Zach and Ethan Shlater. Ethan has diabetes, which has always been a big topic for Kevin and his charitable work.

At the time, Kevin talked about creating T-shirts which could be sold to help raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. The T-shirts are now on sale at the Komets games, at Komet Kuarters or by calling the Komets office at 260-483-0011.

St. Pierre said a couple of other teams in the UHL have expressed interest in selling the shirts.

“It’s going to take some time because a lot of people don’t know about the T-shirts,” he said. “After the last game last week, I signed a bunch, and that’s awesome. This guy from South Carolina who sent me a letter said his kid has had over 7,000 shots already. That’s just unbelievable. Kids shouldn’t have to go through that. Nobody should have to go through that.”

St. Pierre is still planning on soliciting donations at Komets games, but that will be sometime after Christmas. Fans will be able to donate per save, per win or several other categories for as many games as they’d like.

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For the defense

November 29, 2005

One thing I have always suggested the IHL and UHL do is come up with a defenseman of the week category for their weekly awards. Here’s why: Guy Dupuis had a great week last week with three goals and one assist along with a plus-3 rating, so the Komets nominated him for the league’s player of the week award. He did not receive the award because Rockford’s Billy Tibbett’s had four and three assists in four games.

I have no problem with Tibbett’s getting the award this week, but my point is that it’s almost impossible for a defenseman to ever receive the award. As an example, Troy Neumeier had a fantastic season last year and finished plus-47 last year on his way to being named the league’s Defenseman of the Year. He never received the weekly award, and I’m not even sure he was ever nominated, truthfully. That’s not a slam on the Komets for not nominating him either. They probably went with a forward whom they felt had a better chance to win.

I remember being stunned and pleasantly surprised last year when Needier got the award because it almost always goes to an offensive defenseman. Though he had a fantastic season and more than earned the honor, it was still surprising.

The point is that defensemen are never going to get their due, especially defensive defensemen. Who’s perhaps the most underrated Komet of all-time. It’s got to be Carey Lucky who was strictly a defensive defenseman, but few players were ever more valuable in a playoff series. How about in the UL? It’s got to be Kevin Schmidt for much the same reasons. Defensive defensemen never get the glory, but they often have a lot more to do with winning games than the forward who scores all the goals.

Coming up with such an award certainly means more work for over-worked league officials, but it’s also a chance for the league to break new ground that other leagues are ignoring.

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Two minutes for…

November 28, 2005

After Saturday’s game, Komets coach Greg Puhalski expressed his frustration with the number of "cheap” penalties his team was taking. The Komets are averaging one fewer power play per game than their opponents, which is often crucial considering the Komets have been skating short-handed and often with four defensemen. They’re wearing out on the penalty kill.

“We’re taking too many penalties,” Puhalski said. “We’ve got to be a little smarter. We’re taking a lot of cheap penalties by not moving our feet. Fatigue can be a little bit of a factor in that regard being our third game in three nights.

“I think it’s a mental thing. It’s just preparation and being aware of what you need to do. We’re just taking cheap little hooks and grabs.”

I have an observation and a question: I’ve noticed the Komets are getting creamed by hooking and high sticking calls immediately after they’ve had a two-man advantage. I have no problems with the calls themselves because they were obvious penalties, but the players have to be smarter than that. They have to realize the referee is looking to even things up so they need to be more careful. The other thing I wonder, is it easier for the younger players to adjust to the stricter enforcement than the more experienced players? After all, college hockey definitely calls a tighter game than the pros do.

Another thing is that, like every year, there’s a new crop of officials, and it takes time to get to know what kind of game they like to call.

“In defense of the players, it’s frustrating on their part because sometimes it’s being called and sometimes it’s not,” Puhalski said. “At times it’s tough to make adjustments to that.

“Each official is kind of different on that. You have to see them five or six times, and then you get a feel for what he’s going to do.”

But that doesn’t explain why the Komets seem to have the same problem every night even if it’s a UHL veteran ref such as John Searle or Jim Hawthorne. They certainly ought to know how refs like that call a game.

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What a disgrace

November 26, 2005

No, I’m not talking about the Komets’ play, but I’ll have more to say on that in Monday’s paper.

I’m talking about what happened when Flint’s Fabian Laniel was injured during a fight with the Komets’ Guy Dupuis. Laniel had to lay on the ice until the trainer came out to him — the Komets’ trainer! It turns out that Flint doesn’t have a trainer. That’s incredibly bush league and I can’t believe the UHL lets the Generals get away with that. If I was a player and I got seriously hurt in a game, I’d bet I could win a lawsuit in a second. I’d take on the team and the league and I’d have to hire bodyguards to keep potential lawyers away. What a joke! How can the league let this happen? Fine the crap out of the Generals until they comply. If you have to, make them forfeit a game. It’s that serious because this is a safety issue for the players.

Every time there’s even a hint of bringing a union to the UHL, the owners and President Richard Brosal point out how they take care of their players well enough that they don’t need a union. The league does do a good job in that area. But how can the league let this situation continue? It’s a total disgrace. What does this tell the players?

There ought to be certain standards of conduct for each team in area’s such as this. If the Generals are too broke to pay for a trainer, then get out of the league, you don’t deserve to be in it. This league has worked way too hard to improve its image and reputation for garbage like this to still be happening.

It’s embarrassing that this kind of thing can still happen in minor league hockey. How "professional” is that?

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Stewart traded

November 22, 2005

Danny Stewart’s next game in Memorial Coliseum won’t be Thursday, it will be Jan.8. The Komets traded the popular winger this morning to Danbury for defenseman Ryan Jorde, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound defenseman. Because of injuries, the Komets desperately need defensemen.

“We need defenseman, and you’ve got to give up a good player to get a good player,’’ Komets coach Greg Puhalski said. “They were looking for a Danny Stewart-type of player, and we’re getting a stay-at-home defenseman who has played the last couple of years in the American League with Rochester. We need some help on the blue line, and this is what we need to do right now.’’

Jorde, who is expected to be in the lineup Thursday, has no points and 10 penalty minutes in six games to far this season and is minus-5 on the plus-minus rating. He’s 23 years old.

“This isn’t something we just thought about because of the weekend,’’ Puhalski said. “We hate to lose a player with Danny’s popularity with the fans. He’s been a good player for us. It’s a matter of situation and circumstance. We’re 3-7-2, and that’s not good. We felt something needed to be addressed and we did what we felt was right for the team.’’

Stewart, 26, has two goals and 36 penalty minutes in 11 games this season and is minus-11. This was Stewart’s third season with the Komets. He was Fort Wayne’s Rookie of the Year in 2003-04 and the Mr. Hustle Award winner the past two seasons.

“It is part of the business and I understand that, but I didn’t see it coming,’’ Stewart said. “You play for a team for over two seasons and all of a sudden you are gone just like that. I was very upset when it happened. At the same time I’m excited to go to Danbury and get a fresh start.

“The team has obviously struggled a little bit, but part of that is a shortage of bodies. Three-games-in-three-nights is hard enough and then your’e playing with four defenseman and eight forwards.

"Obviously my stats weren’t there, but that comes with team success, too. I didn’t think I was playing bad. Maybe I could have done a little more. I don’t think my performance had something to do with me being traded, I think it was the team fulfilling a need they had on defense.

At practice this morning, Several Komets said they were stunned by the move.

“I’m totally surprised, mostly that a guy like Stewie is a fan favorite and is probably our hardest worker on the team,’’ defenseman Guy Dupuis said. “Things weren’t going as expected so the general manager and the coach decided they had to make a move somehow and improve our team. Somebody had to go, and unfortunately it was him.’’

Puhalski said he’s just going day-to-day on deciding whether to make more moves.

“First of all, it’s part of the business,’’ defenseman Troy Neumeier said. “The second thing is it just tells the rest of the guys that nobody is secure around here.’’

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Tonight was better

November 20, 2005

To a point. The Komets had a much better all-around effort, but they still made some key mistakes at critical times. To me, it looks like their confidence is shaken. The forwards don’t trust the defensemen and the goaltenders, and the defensemen don’t trust that the forwards are going to get back to help out, which is even more critical when you’re playing with four defenseman or five that includes two who have never even practiced with the team. Everybody is trying to do everybody else’s job.

The scary thing is I think the injuries are not going to let up for a while. Shawn Smith and Jason Kean are out indefinitely with concussions, Damir Brujic and Brett Rumble won’t be back until at least mid-December, and a few other players are going to the doctor on Monday to get checked out.

Just be glad you aren’t paying the Komets’ workers comp insurance. That must be awful.

On the other hand, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Rockford is now the Komets’ biggest rival in the UHL. It started last year even before the seven-game playoff series, but the intensity is definitely there now. How about Danny Stewart and Billy Tibbetts going at it off the opening faceoff? Or Lance Galbraith and Chaz Johnson two minutes in?

This is great, something the Komets and the fans need, Rivalries can only be built through the playoffs, which is one reason why the games with Muskegon aren’t that big a deal. The Fury have dominated in the playoffs, so the Komets are still trying to reach their level. Komets fans used to say Quad City was their biggest rival, but that hasn’t been true for a couple of years, while the Rockford games are only getting better and are something to look forward to.

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Well, that was awful

November 18, 2005

I usually don’t like to jump on the Komets early in the season because… well, it’s early in the season. It’s tough to kick a team when it’s down this early, especially since the Komets always seem to bounce back, but Friday night I didn’t have much choice.

We’re 10 games into the season, and this team isn’t any closer to finding out what kind of team it is going to be. Are they a grind it out team? Are they a speed team? Do they count on their special teams? Are they just more physical than everyone else?

How in the world did they think they could win a shootout with Muskegon with Kevin St. Pierre on the sidelines? They couldn’t win that way even with a healthy St. Pierre in goal. The only way the Komets have a chance against the Fury right now is if they hit, and they didn’t hit anything on Friday night.

Yes, the Komets where short-handed, and that’s just tough luck right now. Coach Greg Puhalski and General Manager David Franke signed two players and thought they had two more coming in for Friday’s game. One player backed out after he had already committed, and another couldn’t make it because his equipment got lost in transit. He’ll probably be here in time for Sunday’s game. After spending all week at practice with the Komets, defenseman Mike Mendres decided to retire and get a job.

Another spot of bad luck hit in the first period when Dustin Virag broke a skate blade. Komets’ equipment manager Joe Franke would usually be all over this, but he is missing two games so he can go to a cousin’s wedding. The first time in probably 15 years that Joe misses a game, and this happens? It’s fate I tell you. The skate was eventually fixed, but it was a problem because the Komets were already so short-handed.

The most awful things I’ve seen so far — besides Jason Kean trying to get off the ice with a concussion — are that the players don’t seem to be getting better and don’t seem to be adjusting well to the stricter rules enforcement. I know most fans think referee Shaun Davis called a lousy game, but I only saw one penalty he called that I had a real problem with. Remember, I’m not a fan so I don’t watch the game that way. The referees are supposed to call it tighter this and everyone, players and fans included, have to adjust. We better get used to it. How many times can the Komets give up 10 power plays in a game before they start to get it? They’ve got to play smarter than that.

The Komets do have a ton of injuries, but that’s the perfect opportunity for them to pull together and play tighter defense, not try to turn into an offensive juggernaut. That’s just not going to work. Maybe the worst thing I saw was that the Komets’ veteran players were among the worst offenders at playing poor positional hockey.

I noticed Nathan Grobins was released by Laredo of the CHL, so maybe the Komets will have some interest in him. The tough part for Fort Wayne is that UHL rules require teams to play four rookies, and right now the Komets need both rookie goaltenders to make that quota.

Past Komets teams used to see this kind of adversity as an opportunity to do something special. This team has a huge opportunity the rest of the weekend.

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Links about the rink

November 8, 2005

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve provided some links to the left you might enjoy if you haven’t seen them before. Most deal with Komets history, and Linda Leslie’s Komets photo site if pretty cool.  The Komets are also redoing their official Hall of Fame, history and flashbacks sites, and they are going to be really sharp when they are done.

No pressure Angel. LOL

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Weird stats thing to ponder

November 8, 2005

I noticed a few years ago that the UHL counts shootout goals toward a team’s totals goals for a season.

I think this is wrong a couple of reasons. It adds to a team’s goals against average and counts toward the goals for per game, which should only be counted for regulation time. Say I play four games and score 10 goals in regulation, but I win four shootouts. Then I have 14 goals which drastically changes both categories. I go from 2.5 goals per game to 3.5 PER 60-MINUTE GAME. It doesn’t count toward a team’s shot total either, which increases the shot percentages.

You could also add up your goaltenders goals against averages and it would not equal what the teams numbers are. That’s also true with open-net goals.

My biggest concern is that it leads to misleading, inaccurrate statistics.
It’s not just the UHL. In consulting with the league’s PR chief, Brian Werger, he pointed out that all the other leagues do it and have been doing it.  There’s probably not much the league can do about it since it is kind of at the mercy of its statistics provider.
I wonder how the NHL is doing it this season with shootouts added in?

The league also just announced suspensions to Missouri’s Brad MacMillen and Frank Littlejohn and Rockford’s Robin Big Snake and Corey Hessler from last Saturday’s game.

I think this is an area where the UHL has really made some improvements over the past couple of years. It used to be that suspensions were never announced unless the individual teams announced them publicly.
I think it’s important for the league to publicize the suspensions for two reasons: It lets the opposing fans know if a player is not going to be playing when that team comes to town, and it shoots down fans who claim that the league is being unfair in how it hands out suspensions. This way everyone knows what’s coming because standards have been set and announced, and similar suspensions may have been handed down earlier.

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