FORT WAYNE, IN – It appears the two-year affiliation between the Fort Wayne Komets and Colorado Avalanche has come to an end.
Citing ECHL rules on the matter, the news was not confirmed by Komets President and General Manager David Franke and it remains unclear why the two sides split.
The Komets and Avalanche announced a two-year extension last year and it appeared, at the time, both sides were enamored with each other.
It was a partnership that had mixed returns for both sides. Komets Coach Gary Graham brought in uncontracted players in Alex Belzile and Garrett Thompson, who both logged time with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. In addition, prospects Troy Bourke, Gabriel Beaupre, Mason Geertsen, Spencer Martin, and Roman Will also logged extensive time with the ECHL club last season. With the benefit of the affiliation, the Komets made it to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs in 2015 and the Western Conference Finals last season.
But, as is the case with affiliations, the Komets’ roster was picked over at the most inopportune time this past season. A prime example was when the team was in Alaska for a series of games and the team had just enough players to field a compliant roster.
Travel may have been another issue for dissolving the relationship. The AHL & ECHL clubs are separated by more than 12-hundred miles, it takes more than 19 hours to drive from San Antonio to Fort Wayne, and there are no direct flights between the two cities. The M.O. for NHL clubs over the last several years has been to have their AHL & ECHL affiliates to be closer to the NHL club.
The question becomes, what will the Komets do now? Go it alone or pair up with another team in time for next season?
It is tough to be unaffiliated, but the Komets did it in Graham’s first year and advanced to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Given their proximity to several NHL clubs and the job Graham has done behind the bench, it is safe to say the Komets will be in fairly high demand.
Realistically, there are three teams that makes sense for the Komets to pair up with:
The first, and perhaps most likely, is the St. Louis Blues. Sources around the league have told The Sin Bin the Blues want an ECHL affiliate within driving distance of their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. According to Google Maps, it is a 50 minute flight and a 3 hr, 15 minute drive between the two cities. This seems very do-able, however, the great unknown is how helpful the Blues will be for the Komets.
Option 2 is tied to whatever the Cincinnati Cyclones decide to do with their affiliation, which officially, is still with the Nashville Predators. Unofficially, the Cyclones worked with the Columbus Blue Jackets this past season, landing goaltender Brad Thiessen, forwards Peter Quenneville and Seth Ambroz from the Lake Erie Monsters. If the Cyclones stick with Nashville, the Jackets would be available, but as Cohn writes, an affiliation with them in the past was not fruitful.
The third option is to pair with teams like Ottawa, Florida or New Jersey, teams who have been hit and miss or non-existant (New Jersey & Florida) as it relates to ECHL affiliations.
One thing is for sure, the clock is ticking for the Komets to decide their course for next season. News like this can certainly put a wrench into recruiting, but the right affiliation can be a boom for the club, both in the short and long-term.