For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.
Toledo at Komets
Face-off: 8 p.m. Friday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
Whenever things are going poorly on a sports team, the coaches always talk about simplifying things. Just stick to the system, they say, let the game come to you or don't think, just play.
Cliches often have a lot of truth to them.
The Fort Wayne Komets need to simplify things a little by naming a captain, something coach Gary Graham said after Saturday night's 2-1 shootout loss to Reading he's ready to do after the Christmas break.
Since trading Nick Tuzzolino a month ago, they've gone with three alternate captains hoping to see a definitive leader emerge. It was an interesting thought at the time and seemed to make sense. Unfortunately, as the same problems keep happening, it has meant instead of having multiple players providing leadership on the ice, there's none. Everyone is looking for someone else to lead, wondering if this is when they should step up or hoping someone else will follow with no authority to enforce action.
In other words, there is no definitive leader.
The Komets need a captain to take over, and it needs to be Chris Auger. Currently, the three alternates are Brandon Marino, Kaleigh Schrock and Mickey Lang. They are all capable leaders, but they are not THE leader.
They all have some outstanding leadership qualities, but they also have some flaws. Schrock has unmatched passion but lacks the offensive game, and he needs to concentrate on continuing to provide energy and heart. Marino and Lang always think individual options first and sometimes that hurts their defense. That selfishness to think they can always make an individual play is part of what makes them great scorers, but it doesn't usually make the best leaders.
The team's biggest symptom right now is that when something bad happens on the ice, the Komets fragment and everybody tries to win a 1-on-3 battle instead of playing as a team. The forwards try to make a fancy play on their own instead of working with their teammates.
They are all making the game much harder instead of more simple.
Auger doesn't do that. He busts his tail within the system to try to make something happen. Though he could have been a strong captain candidate at the start of the year, he was coming back from major knee surgery that forced him to miss most of last season. It wasn't certain he would make the team out of training camp, but now he's been the Komets' most consistent player every game in terms of overall effort.
He's regained his scoring touch while maintaining his standards as one of the best defensive forwards in Class AA minor league hockey. He's also not afraid to say what he thinks in the locker room, and when things have gone wrong he's one of the few players trying to rally everyone on the bench.
After each loss, the Komets talk about needing to maintain a consistent physical and emotional effort. No one has ever questioned that about Auger because he's so consistent. It killed him to sit in the press box last year and watch the games because he couldn't make a difference.
The Komets need to enhance their leadership structure by letting Auger provide some more focus on the ice for his teammates. It's a simple, easy choice.