The Journal Gazette
Saturday, December 25, 2021 8:20 pm

Food for thought: Should 'C' go to players unlikely to be called up?

Boudens has been gone for 14 games; unusual circumstance for Komets

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Matthew Boudens hasn’t played for the Komets since Nov. 17, leaving the Komets without their captain for the past 14 games. Word is the American Hockey League’s Henderson Silver Knights really like Boudens, who has four assists in eight games with them, so who knows when Boudens will be back.

It brings to light an interesting question: Should the Komets, as a general rule, be putting the ‘C’ on players not likely to be called up?

Let me be clear here: I’m not saying they necessarily should be thinking that way – at this level, especially during a pandemic, you really just can’t predict who’s going to get called up and for how long – but it’s an interesting question for future seasons.

Let me also be clear: I’m not worried about the Komets’ current leadership without Boudens, as I’ve heard nothing but strong things about the leadership core that currently includes alternate captain Anthony Petruzzelli, alternate Marcus McIvor, Connor and Kellen Jones, and Shawn Szydlowski. (Blake Siebenaler, who is also an alternate captain, is with Ontario of the AHL.)

But this is a situation we’re just not accustomed to in Fort Wayne and Boudens has been gone long enough that it’s worth discussing. If the Komets start going through some bigger obstacles – if that’s possible – not having someone as the clear captain in the locker room could become problematic.

If you look through the history of the Komets, there have been few, if any, situations in which you were really concerned a captain would be called up for a long period of time. Look at the most recent captains – A.J. Jenks, Jamie Schaafsma, Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, Nick Tuzzolino, Colin Chaulk, Guy Dupuis, Brent Gretzky – and really none were in danger of being called away because of where they were in their careers.

It had been pretty clear to me last summer that the Komets were thinking Boudens would be the captain because they’d envisioned that for him for awhile and liked the intangibles he brought on and off the ice. They may have been thinking that at 28, Boudens wouldn’t get much of a look at the AHL level, especially since the Chicago Wolves had sampled the goods multiple times and sent him back to Fort Wayne.

I do believe Boudens will be back sooner than later and that he’ll be a fixture for years to come, but they may need to in the future consider the variable of call-ups when naming their captain. It’s a very unfamiliar situation they find themselves in missing Boudens and Siebenaler and, frankly, AHL teams seem to be using the Komets’ skill at identifying and recruiting good prospects to pad their own rosters. We’ve seen it for three seasons now.

The good news of all this is it gives Petruzzelli, 28, a real opportunity to step up and he’s been embracing that, that’s been clear to see, so I consider him a de facto captain right now.

I’m betting that in future seasons, the Komets consider the chances of call-up when they name their leaders. It may not necessarily be fair – should a guy be penalized because he’s good enough to advance? – but there’s something to be said for having a consistent leadership voice in the locker room throughout the season if that can be managed.

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