Captain’s priority: Building chemistry
Jamie Schaafsma is no stranger to donning the “C” : to being the captain : as he’s about to do for his fourth season with the Komets.
And as he did before that with the Allen Americans, with whom he won championships.
His work will have started before the team even takes to the ice today for the first practice at Memorial Coliseum. Despite the success of last season, when the Komets fell only one goal short of making it to the Kelly Cup finals, only seven players are back from that playoff run, and it’s nothing short of a major rebuild for Fort Wayne.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Schaafsma said. “Obviously, a lot of these guys I’ve never seen before. I’m not sure what type of players they are. I’m excited to see all the talent they’ve signed and what they bring to the team, and I’m interested to see what this team’s going to be all about.”
Schaafsma is, of course, concerned about building chemistry and that starts in the locker room, where he and alternate captain Cody Sol will try to make sure everyone is having fun and included in the team dynamic.
“Both me and Cody, it’s something we’re good at. If a guy doesn’t feel like he’s a part of the group, you bring him in. No stragglers,” Schaafsma said. “Be a part of the team. Everyone is part of the locker room and you have fun.”
The Komets lost last season in overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference finals to the eventual-champion Colorado Eagles, who are now in the higher-level American Hockey League. Also back from the postseason are Anthony Petruzzelli, Justin Hodgman, Jason Binkley, Ryan Lowney and Marco Roy, who is currently in training camp with Laval of the AHL.
Taylor Crunk was also on Fort Wayne’s roster for the entirety of last season but missed much of it with an injury.
There are expected to be 32 players vying for about 20 roster spots : the regular season opens Oct. 12 in Indianapolis against the Indy Fuel : and the returning Komets will be tasked with making sure everyone knows what’s expected of them here.
“All the returning guys from last year, it’s going to be important for us to set the tone, set the example of how we expect things to be run around here : our expectations on basically winning every night,” Schaafsma said. “We have to demonstrate that to the young guys. You have to get to know the young guys and build personally relationships and build team chemistry.”
The Komets’ new affiliation with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights yielded the assignment of goaltender Zach Fucale on Sunday. Fucale spent 18 games last season in the AHL with Laval and was 10-7-0 with an .890 save percentage and a 3.26 goals-against average. With Brampton of the ECHL, he was 5-4-0 with a .913 SP and a 2.83 GAA.
All of the other Komets players who had been in camp with the Chicago Wolves, the Golden Knights’ AHL affiliate, were released, and they included: Sol, Binkley, Thomas Ebbing, Garret Ross, Garrett Ladd, Joseph Widmar, Jeff King, Kyle Hayton and Lukas Hafner.
On Sunday, there was a players-only meeting and there will be physicals this morning before on-ice work and scrimmages.
Surely, Schaafsma will try to get to know the players and develop relationships that will help him, coach Gary Graham and assistant coaches Ben Boudreau and Olivier Legault.
“It’s getting to know guys’ identities and that off-ice aspect is very important, and you try to do that as early as possible. Any team I’ve played on throughout my career, it’s been like that,” Schaafsma said. “The bad apples weed themselves out anyways. I’m looking forward to having new guys around and see what happens.”
The Komets will play two exhibition games, at Indy on Friday and at the Coliseum 7:30 p.m. Saturday vs. the Fuel.