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Hello again hockey fans and welcome to the latest edition of "The View From the Booth". As we draw near to the 4th of July holiday, things in the hockey world, in both the AHL and NHL are really starting to heat up. The NHL free agent signing frenzy officially begins on Friday, July 1st. It's like Christmas in July for those of us who live and work in the pro hockey world. I absolutely love that day when teams start to take shape for the coming season, and that will definitely include the Colorado Avalanche and our Lake Erie Monsters, to some degree.
There are certainly a lot of questions surrounding our big club and the Monsters for the coming season. Already several players who spent the majority of last season here in Cleveland have been re-signed by the Avs to one-year deals. The fun is only beginning fans! I think that regardless of what happens at training camp in Denver this September, fans will really like the team we will have here in Cleveland.
On Wednesday, former Monsters winger David Jones was rewarded with a new contract by our big club. Jones had a huge 2010-11 season, a campaign in which he had a career year. He set career highs in games played (77), points (45), goals (27), and assists (18). Jones also sniped three overtime goals for the Avs as well last season. A great year and great reward with the new contract for sure for Jones, who missed major portions of the last two seasons.
I love stories of perseverance and determination like this one on Jones. I remember interviewing him last September at training camp in Denver and talking at length about the injury problems he suffered the previous two seasons. It's great to see the success that's come after so much hard work and determination by a young man, a former ninth round draft pick who started his pro career right here in Cleveland as a Lake Erie Monster. Way to go David, and best of luck this coming season in the burgundy and white!
If you haven't heard, there have been several affiliation changes for the upcoming season. So far, as of June 29th, there are five new AHL/NHL affiliations. The Manitoba Moose, now the NHL's Winnipeg Jets, will now have their top farm team in St. John's, Newfoundland, and will be the Jets' pipeline to the NHL.
So, with the Manitoba Moose no more, the Vancouver Canucks needed a new farm team and that will be the Chicago Wolves. The Canucks top prospects will now call Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois home. You can be sure, however, the Wolves well-run organization will keep its share of high-end free agents; they always have under their current ownership and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
The Rochester Americans and Buffalo Sabres are also back together, as they should be. Money was the issue when the two organizations split a few years back, and to me, it's a perfect fit that those two Western New York cities are once again together to develop and put players and staff in the NHL in Buffalo. The Amerks were the Florida Panthers’ top farm team the last couple of seasons, but now the Amerks and Sabres are back together and have resolved their monetary issues. The two cities are only about an hour and 15 minutes apart, so that's a great match for the fans and the organizations.
When we see the San Antonio Rampage this coming season we will not be seeing the Phoenix Coyotes prospects anymore, instead it will be the Florida Panthers prospects. The Rampage and Coyotes parted ways and the Coyotes’ top farm team will now reside in Portland, Maine. The Pirates were in need of an AHL team after the Rochester Americans went back with the Buffalo Sabres.
I know the distance between Phoenix, Arizona and Portland, Maine is considerable, but sometimes that isn't always a huge issue. It's expensive indeed for scouts and NHL management teams to do all that travelling, but more times than not, when players are called up from the AHL to the NHL, it happens on the road.
In my two years here with the Monsters, far more players were called up when we were on the road than when we were home. I remember just one case of that last season when Greg Mauldin was called up by the Avs, and he actually jumped in a car and went to Columbus where the Avs were facing the Blue Jackets. Sure it's nice for teams like Rochester and Buffalo; Detroit and Grand Rapids; and Rockford and Chicago to be so close, but like I pointed out, it's not a major deal when teams in the AHL and NHL have some distance between them.
So personally, I am looking forward to the changes in the AHL this season. I think it will be great to see some different prospects who we haven't had the opportunity to see since our franchise started in 2007-08. At this point, I don't anticipate any other changes in affiliations, so as Wayne and Garth said in Wayne's World, "Game On!".
We are still a while away from our schedule coming out, and of course we will keep you fully posted on that. I'm anxious to see how the four fewer games the AHL will play this season will affect our home schedule. I don't think it’s going to be that drastic. The league's goal was to reduce the four-games-in-five-nights routine, which is very tough on teams throughout the league.
I am still amazed at how our players survive those 4-in-5's. It is so demanding and taxing on the body and the mind, and as a result we are all glad for the change in regards to that. The other area of change the league wanted, and is expecting to make this season, is the amount of mid-week games that are played. My philosophy is like that too: let's play about 90% of our games on the weekends so we can pack The Q and the other arenas around the AHL.
And one final item I wanted to touch on was Lane Lambert. If you haven't heard, Lambert, who was the head coach the last few seasons of the Milwaukee Admirals, is now an assistant coach with the Admirals big club, the Nashville Predators. Lambert spent time here in Cleveland playing alongside Monsters Radio and TV analyst Jock Callander. The two are close friends and I know hockey fans of Cleveland remember Lambert from his playing days. I got the chance to get to know him a little bit over the last couple of seasons and he's a great guy. His call up as a coach to the NHL is very well deserved.
Kirk Muller is the new head coach in Milwaukee and I think he will do very well as the Ads new bench boss. He was an incredible player in the NHL and did a tremendous job as an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens the last few seasons. I think he will do a tremendous job in Milwaukee.
Until next week, enjoy the free-agent frenzy that officially begins on Friday July 1st. Have a great and safe holiday weekend and I will be back next week with another installment of "The View From the Booth".
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