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Tailing the Komets

The biggest difference

I've been thinking a lot lately about trying to quantify the difference between Greg Puhalski and Pat Bingham so I could explain how I see it to you, and there really isn't that much difference other than in personal style. Both are extremely intelligent men and coaches who are the same in terms of drive and the willingness to push their players. You see it more openingly with Bingham, but it was every bit there as much with Puhalski. He was much more private about it and did it behind closed doors. You may not believe that, but it is 100 percent true.

The major difference between this year's team and last year's team is not the coaching, but it's the players. No, it's nothing to do with talent or scouting or any of that either. It's more of an intangible.

The biggest difference is that the players on this year's team really like each other. There's a growing bond there and a closeness in the locker room that I haven't seen on the Komets since the early 1990s. When I first started covering the team in 1990, I thought that was just the way it was supposed to be. Teammates loved each other and were willing to sacrifice for each other no matter what because that's what Boudreau, Chin, Lucyk, Fletcher, Bawa, Kaminski, Dupuis, Lambert, McKee, Richison, Davidson, Hankinson, Jay and Smith did all the time, and please forgive me if I forgot anyone but it's 2 a.m. Those guys know what I mean, though and the respect I have for them all.

I never realized at the time how special those teams were. I just assumed you could create that chemistry every year if  you were willing to work hard enough at it.

Now I realize it was a once in a generation thing, something that every team aspires to but so few ever come close to reaching.

That's the biggest difference between this year's team and last year's team, not the coaching. Richardson, Goneau, Larocque are life-long friends who brought that bond with them, and have included Dupuis who Richardson  played with in Hershey. J.F. Labarre and Martin Gascon have that bond. All of these French players are loving the opportunity to go to work every day with their buddies. They are all having a blast and that translates onto the ice. I see it every day in Kevin St. Pierre's face. He smiles every day and you can tell he's having fun all the time.

I was talking to Bruce and Mario today at lunch and one of the topics was how Arthur is getting some grief on the blog. I think those two would absolutely tear anyone apart who had the guts to say that where they could hear it. They love that kid, his work ethic, his willingness to learn and  his general overall attitude. Here's a kid who paid  his own way to camp, and out-works everyone else on the team every day in practice. Here's a rookie who is going up against the top lines of the other teams every game on the road, when the home coach gets to make the last change, and he never complains. Both Richardson and Larocque talked about how Kiyaga's work ethic in practice pushes them everyday -- and here's an assistant coach and an alternate captain who are known for working hard. They both believe Arthur is going to be an awesome player by the end of the year because he listens and he works so blasted hard. They can't imagine anything less for him, and because of all that the are more than willing to help him make it happen.

I was so impressed because I can't tell you how rare it is for two veteran players like that to jump to the defense of a rookie five weeks into his pro career. They gained nothing from it, but they were both very passionate about it. That's the type of thing that never would have happened last year. I can't tell you how many times I heard veterans say get rid of him and bring somebody else in. There were a few exceptions, but it was definitely not the norm like it is this year.

And I know it's early, but I sense that from all the members of this team. They are building a very close-knit squad, the type of team that like those squads from the 1990s will be friends 20 years from now. The really cool thing is now I'm old enough and experienced enough to recognize it for the amazing thing it is and I can't wait to follow it closely the rest of the year and enjoy it fully.

That may sound completely sappy, but I have been trying to figure out exactly why I am enjoying covering this team so much, and that's it. They really like each other and what they are doing together. If they had the option, they'd spend hours in the locker room after the game rehashing things and just enjoying each other's company. Last year's squad couldn't wait to get away from each other.

I used to think what the Komets had 16 years ago was a fluke, a once-in-a-lifetime thing I would never get the chance to see again.

So that's the real difference between this year's team and last year's squad. It's all about the players and their bond, and that's something no coach can do much about. It's either there or it isn't.

Posted in: Komets


Mon, 11/13/2006 - 11:44pm

*hands Blake a tissue* WHAT?!?!?!?

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 2:50am

Blake, Thank you for writing this article. I think Kiyaga has the potential to be a very special hockey player. True, he is a rookie, is still learning the pro game and is going to make mistakes. But I would rather have someone that gives all out effort in both practice and games on the team instead of someone who just shows up on payday. Pat Bingham is a coach that is known for teaching and encouraging his players, so Arthur is in an enviroment where he will gain experience and confidence as the season progresses. Blake, your comment about the players from the early 1990's still being friends 20 years from now is true....I have a brother in law (wife's side of family) who played for the Komets and during summer cookouts, etc. I've seen a lot of the guys over at his house. It's one of those things that will never show up on the gamesheet next to the goals, assists or PIM's....but it's there. I look forward to being back in the house this weekend. I missed the Flint game since I had an out of town wedding.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 3:42am

I'm a fraternity member and know what it means to count on each other and stand up for one another no matter what...

Great post with a lot of heart and passion.

Jungle Monkey
Tue, 11/14/2006 - 4:24am

Group Hug.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 6:14am

The statement that, "....the difference from last years team to this year is that they like each other." I know the past is the past, but a part of me would kind of like to know a little more on the who, why, and how fo that statement.

As for Kiyaga, I'm not going to say anything about what kind of effort he gives because other than game days we don't see it, but I think as fans we expect something for the on ice product and if we don't see it then we will tend to question it more aggressivly and harshly then anything else. Look at it this way, if we had Quad Cites record, I think the comments would be much worse.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 6:48am

Great article Blake. I also think that Arthur could develop into a great player. At least Pat is giving him the chance. Nothing at all would have gotten rid of him right away. Sorry, I had to say that. I see a major difference in this years team also as far as bonding. I am amused outside the locker room when about 4 or 5 of them and their girlfriends and wives all start speaking French at one time. Kind of blows the mind. It's really a neat experience.

Tony E
Tue, 11/14/2006 - 7:12am

Actually I think that is a fair and objective statement. Coach Puhalski did not seem to have patients when it came to the learning mistakes younger players made.

Great insight Blake. The braintrust did a heck of a job putting these pieces together.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 9:09am

i think one point you missed is that a coach does have impact on this. he can nuture it or he can do things that tear that group apart. i think our former coach did a good job of keeping the players in a negative mood. listening to small comments from returning players and reading between the lines tells me our former coach didnt communicate well with the boys and didnt take well to suggestions.. and this can tear apart a locker room. what are your thoughts on this blake? go arthur!!

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 9:30am

This is the kind of stuff I love reading on the blog....or even in the paper that I no longer get. Plus its kind of cools off the chirping from the p-nut gallery.

I sitll wish you had the time to do some stories on the players once in awhile. I know last season you said you didn't have the time with other work obligations but still....its good stuff.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 9:45am

Great article Blake. It is good to see the way this team is working together. I am a Yankees fan so I know what having team chemistry can do. In the late 90's the Yankees had teams that played for each other. There were vets, roll players, and big money players all working for each other towards a common goal. Now the Yankees are all over paid and they don't work together at all. No roll players, no team spirit, just a bunch of guys collecting a paycheck.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 10:19am

great info, i really liked the comment "now I'm old enough"

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 11:52am

Great article Blake.
A lot of players didn't like Greg,because he made them fill like crap where Pat Bingham is much nicer.AND A BIG PLUS FOR ME IS THAT WE AS FANS CAN SEE HIM COACH AND ACK LIKE HE IS INTO THE GAME.I think the fans don't like Kiyaga because he don't hit & fight.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 12:36pm

Chuckitt, I was talking to coach Bingham today about this and his exact quote, ``You can't give me any credit for that because I had nothing to do with it. The players either have it or they don't. This isn't something I've done.''

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 1:14pm

Scoops, that's why I try to do a feature every Tuesday. Next week I'll have two, including a special, super-duper Thanksgiving edition.

Tim Hoke
Tue, 11/14/2006 - 1:25pm

Blake i agree with you but, i believe the talent is better than lasts years team.

Hit Somebody!!!
Tue, 11/14/2006 - 5:57pm

Do I hear the sounds of Violins playing in the background....wow, that was pretty mushy stuff. That puts the Rob Guinn story from last year to shame. I had almost forgotten more about that story, than any of you have ever enjoyed this new one. Even I don't know what I just said. LOL

I like that they enjoy each other.

They have the makings of a great team.

"Nothing at All" is getting way too much run here. He tore guys to pieces over and over again. He took good talent and turned it into mediocrity. His Power Play philosophy was stand in one place and take a shot from the blue line. No one move please. He never played a physical style of game. He never put a guy in front of the net. He never said 2 words on the bench. He never coached his players at the games. He never encouraged his players. He changed lines way too much and way too often. Line combinations were like musical chairs from night to night too. His teams dumped the puck more than garbage men dump trash. He was lost.

Bingham is the exact opposite of "Nothing at All." I don't buy the part of the article that says they are alike. That is far-fetched. That is an insult to Bingham I would think. Bingham so far is the Anti-Card Board Cutout.

Kiyaga may be ok in the long run...he gets out muscled currently and this has nothing to do with talent, hard work, or desire. He is just physically too small. I like him too, I just think he might be out of position. That's all.

Good Article, but doesn't mean we all have to agree with all of it.

Go Komets!!!

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 6:00pm


Hit Somebody!!!
Tue, 11/14/2006 - 6:01pm

Oh come on...you knew it was coming. You thought of me when you wrote that stuff.

Hit Somebody!!!
Tue, 11/14/2006 - 6:02pm

You can have a legitimate love for Mr. Puhulski, you have the right. We can disagree with that though, right? Just a difference of opinions.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 6:47pm

Which is harder, a puck or Hit's head? LOL. Hit I would suggest you not read the paper on Thurdsay. You ain't gonna like it.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 8:35pm

coach is being modest, cause a coach can ruin a good group of people or he can be smart enough to leave em alone and do their thing with the right ammount of criticizim and the right ammount of back slapping. a coach can destroy a teams attitude and he can help nourish one too! coach does deserve credit even if he doesnt want it!!! ive been there and seen both things happen.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 8:47pm

"Yawn" is such a legit comeback...... for a third grader.

Tue, 11/14/2006 - 10:50pm

Like the whole anti-Puhalski discussion hasn't sounded like a bunch of third graders for months.

Jungle Monkey
Wed, 11/15/2006 - 4:45am


Komet Fan
Wed, 11/15/2006 - 6:13am

Very nice article Blake!!! I would expect Bingham to be modest and say it has nothing to do with him. That is being classy. Truth is, players didn't like Chief for the most part and he turned the last couple of years into problems for the players and the team with his ways.

When you are constantly put down and criticized, you start to believe it. That is what happened last year. Guys got to the point where they tuned out Chief and hated coming to the rink, which meant they didn't enjoy playing hockey anymore. Not really that hard to figure out...

I would also say the Coach recruits players he wants so it is a reflection of himself. Point is that Chief didn't recruit the right type of player, especially the last couple years. Look at some of the players who played for Chief last year then look at them this year. HUGE difference!!! It's not that there is more talent this year, it is that there is a better overall attitude surounding the team. It starts with the coach....

Nobody is going to change your mind Blake, but facts are facts. Chief was the biggest problem last year. He certainly wasn't the only problem, but the biggest one.

Wed, 11/15/2006 - 7:59am

Awesome article Blake!! You can see the cloesness on the ice. I can see a lot more chatter on the bench -- the Jungle has risen again! Oh, my the way - leave Guinn alone .. come on..

Wed, 11/15/2006 - 7:59am

Awesome article Blake!! You can see the cloesness on the ice. I can see a lot more chatter on the bench -- the Jungle has risen again! Oh, my the way - leave Guinn alone .. come on..

Wed, 11/15/2006 - 10:05am

Speaking of Puhulski....since Hit Nobody just loves talking about him....what kind of reaction do you think he gets Saturday night?
Does get get a Danny Stewart? Suttle clapping for his overall accomplishments and a cup in Fort Wayne? Mock clapping that his not our coach anymore? Or booing like children?

Wed, 11/15/2006 - 10:05am

Speaking of Puhulski....since Hit Nobody just loves talking about him....what kind of reaction do you think he gets Saturday night?
Does he get a Danny Stewart? Suttle clapping for his overall accomplishments and a cup in Fort Wayne? Mock clapping that his not our coach anymore? Or booing like children?

Wed, 11/15/2006 - 10:12am

Probably booing like children, I do hate to see it because he was a succesful coach, but he's no longer a Komet and even when he was he wasn't thought of that fondly.