Who might team look at as coach?
Komets general manager David Franke declined to discuss the names of any potential candidates for the team’s now-vacant head-coaching post, though he confirmed that assistant coach Ben Boudreau will be considered. However, one thing seems to have changed: The prerequisite that a Fort Wayne hire must have previous head-coaching experience, something that had been the case all the way back to Boudreau’s father, Bruce, being hired in 1993.
“We’ve always talked about that in the past, but times change,” Franke said after the team fired Gary Graham as coach Monday. “There are former players out there that have experience in the coaching ranks in this league and other leagues. Does he have to be a head coach before he can coach here? Maybe, maybe not, it just depends on the person. We’ll take two or three weeks and make sure we make the right pick.”
Here are the people The Journal Gazette believes will, or should, be at the top of the Komets’ list of candidates.
Aaron Schneekloth: He has to be phone call No. 1 for what he’s done in the ECHL, leading the Colorado Eagles to Kelly Cups in 2017 and 2018. Schneekloth was forced into an assistant coaching position when the Eagles moved up to the American Hockey League last year, and it’s unknown if being a head coach in the ECHL is something in which he’s still interested.
Ben Boudreau: Graham’s assistant the last two seasons, he’s well-regarded by the players. His father being the Minnesota Wild’s coach helps, since that means connections and good hockey lineage. But Boudreau was part of the recruiting and X’s and O’s problems last season.
Larry Courville: He led the Reading Royals to the 2013 ECHL championship and made the playoffs his final eight seasons with the team, 2009 to 2017, though he had a strange end with the team by being replaced on the eve of the 2017 playoffs.
Ryan Mougenel: He checks a lot of boxes, including being a good head coach in the ECHL with Las Vegas from 2009 to 2013, making it to the playoff finals once. He’s also spent five seasons as an AHL assistant.
Scott Hillman: He was a better coach for the Indy Fuel than he’s been given credit for : a 63-66-15 record between 2014 and 2016 : and did some good things with the Central Hockey League’s Missouri Mavericks before that. The Komets want a great recruiter, so consider that he convinced Shawn Szydlowski and Garrett Thompson to leave Fort Wayne for Norway last year.
Colin Chaulk: A longtime captain of the Komets, Chaulk’s contract with the Brampton Beast is expiring. However, bad blood exists between the Komets and Chaulk from the way they parted ways. Some inroads in the relationship have been made : the team retired his number : but it’s far from repaired and thus a union would be unlikely.
Nick Vitucci: The man most responsible for getting the Toledo Walleye’s hockey operations off the ground, he coached Toledo from its inception in 2009 to 2014. With the Komets needing a rebuild, this would be an interesting idea if he’d consider it.
Gerry Fleming: He didn’t make the playoffs in his three seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, 2015 to 2018, but he had winning records. He has plenty of ECHL experience, too, taking the Florida Everblades to the finals in 2004 and 2005.
Robb Stauber: An outside-the-box idea, Stauber is a former NHL goaltender who coached the U.S. women’s team to an Olympic gold medal. As a goalie coach, he helped the Minnesota men’s team to two NCAA championships. He has expressed interest in returning to the men’s game, but could he be a good recruiter of ECHL players?
Doug Shedden: He won five championships in the Central and United Hockey leagues with Wichita, Flint and Memphis. He has been a successful coach in Europe since 2005, where he’s probably making more money than he could make in Fort Wayne.
Glenn Detulleo: Just led the Huntsville Havoc to back-to-back championships in the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League. But he’s been in that league since 2011, so it’s unclear if he could recruit ECHL talent.
Andy Delmore: He has no head-coaching experience, but he’s been Dan Watson’s top assistant with Toledo, which has a 2-0 lead over Tulsa in the Western Conference finals.
John Anderson: The former Komets player and ex-NHL coach would have certainly been at the top of the Komets’ list : he’s won four AHL championships : but he’s allegedly taken his name out of the running because he wants to get an NHL assistant coaching gig.
Al Sims: He coached the Komets to championships in 1993, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012, but he and the Komets parted ways after their disastrous first season in the ECHL and the team replaced him with his understudy, Graham. He’s since coached in the ECHL with Evansville and gone into semiretirement.
Jamey Hicks: The SPHL’s Coach of the Year, he took the Birmingham Bulls to the finals and has made them a power in just two seasons.
Jean-Guy Trudel: His Peoria Rivermen tore up the SPHL in the regular season, going 40-7-0, though they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs. He’s been the SPHL’s Coach of the Year three times.
Enrico Blasi: He has no professional experience but coached Miami (Ohio) to two Frozen Fours. His record over the last six seasons included only one season with an above-.500 record, but in fairness that was after a move to a more difficult conference and with players perhaps more invested in their NHL futures than winning at college.