Archive for January, 2006

Don’t forget

January 31, 2006

Today start’s the listing of what former Komets are still playing in the at a glance segment. You can get to it by tapping on the Komets coverage link to the left. If they changed teams within the past three weeks, the listings might be a tad off, but I think they are pretty accurate. It takes about five hours to track them all down, and I’m sure I haven’t got them all. Have fun.

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Fans idea page

January 30, 2006

The Komets have something new on their website and have asked that it be publicized here. They now have a spot on their homepage for ideas and input from fans.

http://www.komets.com/fanideaspage.htm"

or you can e-mail them at fanideas@komets.com

“The Komets will attempt to respond to All Emails that are presented in a professional, polite, and constructive manner within Two(2) Business Days”

So have at it.

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Kean retires

January 30, 2006

Komets defenseman Jason Kean announced his retirement today after missing most of the season with a concussion. Kean suffered his third concussion in November, and resumed skating in practice two weeks ago.

“I just was kind of fed up with being injured all the time,” Kean said. “I thought about it (before), but I figured it would be all right to go back out and skate again. In practice I felt good, but every time after I would get sick. This has been the worst. It’s been tough because it has affected my whole life.”

Kean said this is the third concussion he has suffered during his career. He said he has some interviews lined up and hopes to use his economics degree in the business world.

He said his best memory was last spring when the Komets advanced to the Colonial Cup Finals. Kean, a defenseman, came back from injury to play forward and never complained.

“I just like to play, especially in the playoffs,” he said. “I loved playing in the playoffs and making that run. I’m very proud of myself and my teammates for battling through all the adversity to make the finals.”

Kean, 26, played 46 games with the Komets last season, scoring 11 goals and adding 22 assists to lead Fort Wayne defensemen with 33 points. Kean was also named to play in the UHL All Star Game. During the playoffs, he played in 18 games with 10 points. This year he played in eight games with two assists and 11 penalty minutes.

"I go out like this and I didn’t make it to the NHL like I dreamed of as a kid, but I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished. I always said I’d never play when it became a job and it’s starting to get that way so it’s time to go.”

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How much fun was that?

January 28, 2006

I didn’t get to go to Kalamazoo tonight, but just listening to the game you could tell it was a lot of fun. What I’m wondering is, what did the folks who got to go to Kzoo think? A little role reversal here. You report for me for once. LOL. Who looked good, who looked bad, what was the Chaulk-Turner fight like?

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Weird day in Missouri

January 27, 2006

First Lonnie Loach signs to play again, and then Kevin Kaminski gets fired. No truth that Robin Bawa will be the next coach. (Only some of the oldtimers will get that lame joke). It’s too bad because Kevin is as good a man as he is a player, and his family is top-notch. He’ll land on his feet somewhere.

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Why hitting has declined

January 27, 2006

This story ran in June, 2004, but David was asking the other day if I’d write something about Euro hockey. I think this qualifies.

The lost art of hitting and checking
Physical style of the past is disappearing as hockey evolves into more of a finesse game

Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

About 15 years ago, Komets coach Al Sims put his players on a quota system for body checks. Each of the team’s more physical players had to get at least four hits per game.

"We didn’t give a hit unless it was a hit, either," said Sims, now (then) the coach of Fort Worth in the Central Hockey League. "It wasn’t given to a player for a rubout. We didn’t want anybody on our team who would shy away from that stuff."

It wasn’t uncommon for the Komets to total 80 hits in a game.

This year, the Komets probably averaged 15 hits per game, according to 22-year statistician Don Detter.

"I had enough fingers and toes to count the total for each team," Detter said. "It has evolved into bumping into somebody because there are so darn few."

The biggest gripe with today’s game from most fans is the lack of physical play. There are several reasons for the general decline, including the neutral- zone trap, more European players, improved skills that allow players to move the puck faster and rules changes, but the biggest is probably a lack of education.

Current Komets coach Greg Puhalski said he wants his teams to hit, but a lot of today’s players simply don’t know how.

"In the last 10 years, there probably just hasn’t been as much focus on body contact at the junior level; it’s been more on skill development," Puhalski said. "I believe hockey is at its best when it’s played at a physical level, and the Stanley Cup playoffs are a great example of that. A lot of these players have never experienced it. They are not aware of it and have never been through it."

So why can’t coaches teach physical play and get players to hit more?

"If they aren’t going to put their heart into it, then why practice it?" Puhalski said. "Then it just breeds laziness and poor habits."

As for coaches forcing their players to change their style of play, look at the turnover rate among coaches. If they want to have any job stability, they have to keep their players happy, and trying to teach something players don’t want to learn makes for unhappy players.

"People evolve," Puhalski said. "It’s not the army in here. There needs to be an understanding. I’m not the general ordering people around."

Reading that, most Komets fans are probably ready to use their own brand of physical play on Puhalski, but Sims agrees completely. The game and its players have changed.

"It’s only effective when you get everybody to buy in," Sims said. "The most important thing is getting a group of veterans in the locker room you can trust and have them spread your message and make sure to hold guys responsible. It’s a tough sell, and then you need success pretty quickly."

A coach has two options then. He can sit a player or he can move a player out of town, but it’s tough to give away talent. It’s also tough to sit a player when the owner or general manager starts talking about money.

"To me, ice time is the last resort you have with a player," said former Komets coach John Torchetti, who was the Florida Panthers’ interim coach this season. "How much ice time a guy gets depends on how hard he works. You have to sell that to a team from Day 1. It’s a mind-set, and you have to build it through your practice."

The evolution of the game’s rules also has lessened the impact of consistent body checking. Players pound each other in front of both nets, but they don’t hit as much at center ice.

"With special teams being so important, guys are afraid of taking penalties and it’s hard to play that on-the-edge type of game," said St. Louis Blues forward and former Komet Eric Boguniecki. "You can’t be reckless because referees are watching you and looking for it and coaches will bench you."

The NHL instituted obstruction rules 10 years ago hoping that would lead to more hitting, but the opposite happened. It led to less hitting, and the neutral-zone trap became common.

The safe play is to stay back, and hitting is taking a chance.

"Every player is bigger, faster and stronger than they used to be, so if you are going in for a hit, you better not miss because they can slip right past you and have an odd-man rush before you can recover," Torchetti said.

Now with coverage defenses the focus is on forcing a bad pass rather than knocking a guy off the puck. Most teams try to create turnovers in the neutral zone, not in the offensive zone.

"More than half of our hits used to be in the offensive zone," said former Komets player and coach and current Los Angeles Kings scout Robbie Laird. "The first guy pressures, and then the second guy comes and gets the hit on the pass.

"A lot of what they are teaching now is positional play and not getting caught in the neutral zone. That’s not as exciting as the other way, but it is effective."

Another reason there’s less hitting is expansion. There are more jobs, so the talent pool had to expand. When it expanded, more European players came to North America, and the international game has very little body checking. The top European players are good skaters adept at avoiding hits.

"Look at what wins right now – goaltending and defensive structure," said Laird, a big-time hitter during his career. "That negates the skill guys, and by playing that passive style it takes away from the aggressiveness and hitting."

Playing an aggressive style also takes a toll on a team in terms of injuries. With the increase in size and speed in players, it’s nearly impossible to play that style over a five-month regular season.

"The pace is in the NHL is unbelievable," Boguniecki said. "Trying to play that style every night is very hard on the body. There are times when people who do play that get away from it simply because your body doesn’t allow you to play like that."

Boguniecki thinks the art of body checking might come back more if the NHL is able to shrink its schedule, a move that is being considered.

What’s strange is that while hitting is scarce during the regular season, it always increases dramatically during the playoffs, when the games mean more.

"Look, I know we’d like to see more of it, and we’ve communicated that to our players," Puhalski said. "More than that, I’d like to see it be more of a league-wide thing where it’s done the right way. It makes the game much more exciting."

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Trivia question

January 25, 2006

Man, is this a good one. I didn’t even know it.

What number did Steve Fletcher wear when he first played with the Komets in 1983?

Oh, and the answers to the previous trivia questions for a few weeks back are:

1. Jan. 6, 1962 was significant because the Komets lost three games in 24 hours. They lost the Saturday night game against the Indianapolis Chiefs and then the resumption of a Dec. 13, 1961 game that was suspended because of a brawl. They also lost the Sunday afternoon game to Toledo.

2. Besides playing for the Komets, Reggie Primeau, Len Thornson, Jim Hryciuk and Bob Wilkie all scored Turner Cup-clinching goals.

3. Jim Hryciuk scored the first goal in Washington Capitals history.

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Who’s watching the game tonight?

January 25, 2006

Warning, warning, warning, pandering attack ahead, pandering attack ahead. Danger Will Robinson (anybody remember who Will Robinson was?)

I have to be stuck in the office tonight working on about a dozen stories so I’m not going to have time to watch the all-star game. I’d appreciate it if you are watching the B2 if you could maybe please, pretty please let me know here if Guy does something great, which I expect. He’s been so hot lately. That would help me a ton.

Thank you sincerely, and yes, I have had too much caffeine today.

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Tough week of practice

January 25, 2006

Here’s a question for you: I noticed Justin has his grades up, but what I’m wondering is who do you think is the most under-rated player on the team? I’ll leave that up to your definition.

Perhaps believing his team needs more work on conditioning, Komets coach Greg Puhalski has put his squad through two very challenging practices this week with lots of extra skating and has said more are coming. It’s probably the right time of year for it since they Komets have only one game this week and two next week.

Jason Kean also returned to practice today and skated.

"It wasn’t too bad,” the defenseman said. "I was actually surprised, especially with the tough practice. It was kind of getting a little tough toward the end. The best thing was being out there and interacting with the guys.”

Kean was injured Nov. 18 when he  was checked from behind into the boards by Muskegon’s Rustyn Dolyny.

Concussion specialist Dr. James Stevens said Kean can not have contact in practice for two more weeks, and there’s a follow-up appointment scheduled for Feb. 7. Kean said he is still suffering headaches three or four times per week.

The Komets also had rookie defenseman Eric Patten in camp. He played 33 games two years ago with Richmond of the UHL. He’s listed at 5-11, 195 pounds. He had been signed by Utah of the ECHL, but did not play in any games.

 

MORE LATER

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Some answers

January 24, 2006

David Franke said the Komets put Jason Kean on a non-roster list to free up space they thought they might need on injured reserve. Each team is limited to four players total on the injured reserve lists, a 7-day, 10-day, 14-day and 21-days. This is a 45-day non-roster spot which is new this season, and since Kean has already been out for 66 days, he can be activated at any time.

As for David Ambler of Adirondack, he has asked to be waived through the UHL so he can leave the league.

So what did you think of the financial Q&A with Michael Franke? Did that answer some questions for you?

http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/newssentinel/sports/hockey/uhl/13699075.htm

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