This is going to run tomorrow.
Komets coach Pat Bingham has been on the job for three weeks and
he's spent most of that on the phone, talking to players from last year and
potential players. The News-Sentinel talked with Bingham about his plans and
hopes for the team.
Blake Sebring: All the players I talk to seem to be very excited
after talking to you.
Pat Bingham: With the turning over of a new leaf here,
opportunity does present itself and that's always exciting for players. It's
great to hear that guys are excited about signing and coming back with great
attitudes and energy. In turn that gets me excited. Maybe they've enjoyed our
talks on the telephone. I've encouraged them to look into my background and
talk to others who have played for me because that's the best recruiting tool I
BS: How are you going about putting together a team?
PB: Is there an exact science? You make your calls. You just have
to be very diligent. We're in the business of people so you have to use your
network of people you are familiar with and try to get a cross section of
references on guys. You can't overspend, but the key component is the quality
of person. Talent is obviously a major component but the keys are character and
desire and what are they playing for? We're hearing all the right answers so
BS: What are you doing to find some toughness?
PB:: To me I define toughness different than somebody else might.
It's a mental approach and a will, having a stronger will than their opponents.
Sometimes that means fighting and sometimes it means taking a cheap shot an not
responding such as going to the scoring area and taking a beating to score a
goal. Again, it comes back to the kind of guys we're going after, strong-willed
guys who want to play a team-first concept. If we do our homework and get the
right type of guys, I think we'll be a tough team to play against.
BS: But what is your feeling about fighters?
PB: We're looking at everybody. We're out there trying to round
out a hockey club. We want every element and component so we can compete with
anybody. Ideally, you want to put together a team that is skilled enough to
skate with the skill teams and also have that element of toughness and
character and girt that you can beat those types of teams, too. When you have
enough, that sometimes it results in fights and sometimes in not retaliating.
There are a lot more times in a game when it's not the right time and you have
to walk away. We want to be tough enough to play with those teams that play
with that element. We're trying to strike a balance and leave no stone
BS: How about having the players help with recruiting?
PG: We're trying to strike a balance and leaving no stone
unturned. Who knows better than the players who they would want to play with
and not against? They know the guys they hate playing against, and usually
those are the kind of guys you'd like on your team. I always ask players about
that and often I end up hearing the same names and we check those players out.
BS: How many rookies are you looking to sign?
PB: I think we want to have an extremely competitive camp. We
intend to make people earn their jobs. I believe in competition within a team and
within an organization is crucial to your success. We won't grossly
over-recruit our team. You have to play four every night, and maybe more than
four make the team. That kind competition is healthy. If I was a general
manager of a pro sports team I'd always be after the best player available, and
I wouldn't care if they were rookies or not..
BS: What about affiliations with American Hockey League teams?
PB: I look at it this way: The league is going through a
transformation right now. It has lost some teams, and I think 10 teams is a
great number right now. The rivalries are going to be very intense because
we're going to see each other multiple times and you are looking for every edge
you can get. The affiliations come into play here in getting the younger guys
at the lower salaries. I think it's important because of the cap that is now
going to be very closely monitored. I think that you go out and get your
veterans, guys who have played at the higher levels before who are looking to
settle down. Then you've got your four rookies, and then there's the guys in
between. You can't make everybody rich because you can't exceed the cap. So I
say give the money to the older guys, the mainstays, the pillars in the locker
room. They aren't going anywhere. In order for the young players to be
motivated because they aren't making the most money, they have to have
something else, too, and maybe that's looking for a chance to move up. If they
want to further their careers, we have to open our doors wide open. You can
strike a balance of older and young guys who want to see how far they can take
it. If anything it creates a lot of excitement in that locker room.
BS: But what about the chance of getting burned by AHL teams
taking your best players, possibly for the season?
PB: When guys are making top dollar, it's like a player wanting
to have his cake and eat it too. I don't think a player should negotiate for
top dollar and then want to go up during the year. If you are wanting to go to
the AHL, you shouldn't be looking for the big money here because that's at the
next level for you. You can have an opportunity but take a little less money to
fit into the salary cap and the structure of this team. The individual will be
rewarded. I am a proponent of it. I think the league would be wise to start
going into this direction a little bit. It's going to enable us to get the best
rookies if they see a light at the end of the tunnel.
We're allowed to have seven veterans in our league, and those are
seven guys who aren't going anywhere. They have no desire to go anywhere, they
want to win a title here. There are going to be first-year guys who want to cut
their teeth and maybe go to the AHL, and then there are going to be half a
dozen guys or so who are hungry and looking to see how far they can go.
Wayne is such a great place to play, but we don't want
it to just be a great place for the old dogs to go to pasture. We want to have
the best young guys coming in the league because there is great opportunity.
It's a work in progress. It's just like any championship team at any level, you
have a great blend of older and younger.
I work for the Frankes and the Komets first and foremost. It's my
job to make sure the team we're putting together is going to be intact for the
most part of the entire season, but when you lose a player for a weekend to the
AHL, there's a buzz in the room and it provides somebody an opportunity to step
up and play a larger role. It's all about opportunities. I now it stings when
they take your best ones, but again that's why we're talking about prioritizing
the older key veteran guys and then sprinkling the lineup with some younger
guys. We'll still be fine if those guys get called up.
BS: What are your thoughts about trying to get a player/assistant
PB: I've had one before, and if the right guy comes along I would
be open to it. It's definitely something that's on our minds.
BS: Does the salary of a player-assistant still count against the
PB: Their entire salary goes against the cap.
BS: How about players the Komets acquired in the dispersal draft?
PB: We've got the rights to several players form last year's
roster as well as guys that we claimed or drafted, and we've talked to nearly
all of them. We're going through the process here of due diligence and
character references before we sign players and going down that road too far.
We're looking at character issues, the quality of the person that we're talking
about and how they get along on the team which is perhaps the greatest team game
sport in all sports. We're really assessing and trying to get an overall view.
BS: How do you feel about where things stand overall so far?
PB: I'm one of these nervous guys who never thinks he's got it
figured out. If you are picturing a blue print we have a few aspects in place.
Everybody that I've talked to really seems gung ho, and Fort Wayne is an easy place to be gung ho about. Everybody
we call, nobody is lukewarm, everybody is red hot to come to Fort Wayne.
BS: How many people are you looking to bring to training camp?
PB: Thirty is probably a pretty safe number, but if you keep
calling and the fax machine keeps working you are always going to get surprised
near the end by somebody new who might show up. That's when camp gets a little
bit better. Everybody is trying to impress everybody at camp, including me,
too. You get one chance to make a good impression, and I want to make sure it's
the best, most organized it can possibly be.