The Summer of Coaches continues, as former Edmonton Oilers interim coach Todd Nelson was expected to take over the bench in Grand Rapids with the AHL’s Griffins. Detroit’s top farm team had been run by Jeff Blashill, who graduated up to the NHL squad when Mike Babcock left for Toronto recently.
In Nelson, the Griffins get a coach who began his post-playing days in Grand Rapids – he was an assistant for one season before taking the head coaching job with the now-defunct United League’s Muskegon Fury, winning back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.
The former journeyman defenseman, who had a cup of coffee with the Washington Capitals, has also been an NHL assistant with the Atlanta Thrashers and had a good run with the Oilers’ AHL squad in Oklahoma City, losing in the conference final two years in a row. Current Capitals coach Barry Trotz was a big influence on Nelson early on.
Nelson was part of Edmonton’s shaky transition after the mid-season firing of Dallas Eakins this season, taking over on an interim basis alongside GM Craig MacTavish. He was reportedly given an interview for the full-time position by new GM Peter Chiarelli, but the franchise went with the more experienced Todd McLellan in the end.
Landing in Grand Rapids is a nice situation for Nelson. The Griffins made it to the conference final this year before losing to Utica and many of the top players will be back. While leading scorer Teemu Pulkkinen may be a full-time NHLer, he will replaced by another sizzling prospect in center Dylan Larkin, who left the University of Michigan after an excellent freshman campaign and even won bronze at the World Championship with Team USA, holding his own against NHL competition.
Other notable names in Grand Rapids include Tyler Bertuzzi, Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul. Perhaps the most important player now under Nelson’s command however, is left winger Anthony Mantha.
The rookie pro, who was a gifted goal-scorer in junior, was called out by Detroit senior VP Jim Devellano for a lack of production, though Mantha was also coming off a broken leg that cost him valuable time at the beginning of the campaign.
Today, there is no salary cap in Chicago – just a lot of elated, exhausted Hawks trying to wring champagne out of their beards. Teuvo Teravainen won’t have that problem, since he was too young to grow a facebush en route to the 2015 title and that’s great news for a franchise that expects to contend for the Stanley Cup again next season. Because the cap will be of great concern to GM Stan Bowman right after the Hawks hold their latest victory parade.
The Manchester Monarchs, the Los Angeles Kings AHL affiliate, are Calder Cup champions. Manchester defeated the Utica Comets in five games, with the Cup-clinching victory coming on the back of two early goals scored little more than three minutes apart by Adrian Kempe and Vincent LoVerde.
The Monarchs, who were the regular season’s best team with a record 50-17-6-3 record, captured the Calder Cup in 19 games, never taking more than two losses in a single series. The closest the Monarchs came to dropping a series was in the first round against the Portland Pirates, where they emerged victorious from the best-of-five series 3-2. Read more
With the AHL’s expansion to the West Coast, one of the yet to be released details was what would happen with scheduling for the Californian clubs in the 2015-16 season. Friday evening, however, Commissioner David Andrews confirmed the five new Pacific Division teams would play a shortened schedule next season.
According to LAKingsInsider.com’s Jon Rosen, Andrews told him the AHL’s new clubs – which includes the Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, Stockton Heat, Bakersfield Condors and San Jose Barracuda – will each play 68 games next season, eight fewer than the rest of the AHL. It is, however, unclear whether or not the same will go for the San Antonio Rampage and Texas Stars.
“Our entire league plays an unbalanced schedule,” Andrews told Rosen. “We play predominantly in our divisions, and we play within our conferences, so it won’t be really much less balanced or any less balanced than any of our other divisions.” Read more
Dany Heatley has had his fair share of difficulties over the past few seasons and now the struggling sniper could be leaving North America altogether for a shot to reclaim his career in the KHL.
According to Championat.com, CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg have contacted Heatley about possibly joining their respective clubs next season. After the situation this past season in which Heatley failed to catch on with the Anaheim Ducks before spending the bulk of his campaign in the AHL, it seems unlikely he’ll get another shot at an NHL deal for 2015-16, so playing in the KHL might be his next best option. Read more
Prospects are the lifeblood of the NHL, especially in an era where free agency is dying thanks to talent retention of top stars. But who really stood out this season? Welcome to the first-ever Prospect of the Year awards.
To qualify, a player must still have Calder Trophy eligibility for next season, so excellent youngsters like Detroit’s Teemu Pulkkinen or Boston’s David Pastrnak don’t count. The winners below have impressed me with what they accomplished at their particular level of development – otherwise, it would just be a list of older prospects from the AHL who are on the cusp of NHL jobs.
Let’s do this:
The season of change in the AHL continues to roll on, but this time the new isn’t change of location, affiliation or staff. No, this change is purely aesthetic as the Texas Stars have unveiled their new logo for the 2015-16 campaign.
The Stars – who at this time in 2013-14 were playing in the Calder Cup final, a series they would go on to win in five games – announced Thursday that they’ll be changing their primary and secondary marks for the upcoming season. The new logo, which does away with the previous gold color that was used by Dallas’ AHL club, is similar to the color scheme the NHL’s Stars use, which likely means similar changes are coming to the uniform.
“The colors and themes have worked so well in Dallas and they’ve become synonymous with Stars Hockey,” said owner Tom Gaglardi. “It’s exciting for us to have the Texas Stars represented in the same Victory Green that we take great pride in.” Read more
If the Utica Comets can claw their way back into the Calder Cup final series against the Manchester Monarchs, it has all the makings of a classic.
In reality, were it not for a few unfriendly bounces for the Comets, that sentence could be the other way around. Yet, after two games, the Monarchs lead the best-of-seven series 2-0, winning both games in overtime. In Game 2, it was Nic Dowd – he of four goals and eight points in 15 games heading into Sunday’s contest – who made the difference in the extra frame on a net front scramble: Read more