When I started this column 5 years ago, almost to the day, and on another website it was called From the Monsters Desk. Two cities and 5 managing editors later, it gives me great pleasure to bestow the Eagles name upon it and start another chapter in the Avs AHL affiliations and professional prospect development. Let’s go.
At this point in the summer the coaching staff has been set with the hiring of Greg Cronin last week while retaining the Eagles coaching staff as assistants, which I’ll address below. The roster is about all the way there, we’re still waiting for a couple more AHL contract signings but we can get an idea now about where guys will start at least.
Greer – Toninato – Kosmachuk*
Dries* – Beaudin – Agozzino
Lewis – Shvirev – Kaut*
Barron – Dickinson – Nantel
Warsofsky – Meloche
Geertsen – Alt
Graves – Timmins
Anderson – Boikov
Pufahl* – Davis*
This scenario assumes the Avs keep one extra forward and one extra defenseman and no one is injured right off the bat. They will need a couple more D’s, one of whom I assume is Turner Ottenbreit on an AHL/ECHL contract, to fill out depth. They will need a bunch of forwards, at least 5 or 6 more, for depth purposes. This projected roster will continue to evolve over the summer as players are added. For thoughts on the early iteration of the Eagles roster, Rudo, QueenJK and I got together recently for a TOOA podcast which we think you’ll enjoy, check it out here.
I’ll have some articles in the coming weeks discussing all the players by position. There are a bunch that have been in the org but are just turning pro like Josh Anderson, Conor Timmins, Josh Dickinson, Igor Shvyryov and Travis Barron, who made the Kelly Cup run with the Eagles.
Guys that are brand new to the org start with goalie Pavel Francouz, who was the top goalie in the KHL last year and signed a one-year contract with the Avs as basically an extended try-out for the NHL. Martin Kaut was drafted in the 1st round in June and just signed a couple weeks ago. Sheldon Dries was on an AHL contract with the Texas Stars, had a really solid Calder Cup run then signed an ELC at age 24 with Colorado on July 2nd. Scott Kosmachuk was a 3rd round pick of the Jets in 2012 and comes to the Eagles from the Hartford Wolfpack. Kevin Davis earned an AHL contract in Avs development camp and is just turning pro after several solid seasons as a defenseman for Everett in the WHL. Matt Pufahl had a try-out with the Lake Erie Monsters 4 years ago, opted to go to college but returns now on an AHL deal.
Aaron Schneekloth has been in the Eagles org for the last 12 years, 7 as a player, 3 as an assistant coach and the last 2 as head coach. It’s a big step up from ECHL to AHL so he becomes an Assistant Coach for this coming season. Ryan Tobler also returns as an assistant, which is a change for the Avs by having 2 assistants on staff. Ryan Bach continues as goalie coach as he’s done since 2006.
Since the Avs weren’t comfortable directly promoting Schneekloth into the head coach role they looked for an experienced guy to take over the Eagles for their inaugural season. Even though they’ve known about the opening since at least April and most likely further back from that, they waited until mid-July to hire Greg Cronin. So although Schneeks, Tobler and Bach were all at development camp working with a large chunk of this years’ roster, the head coach was still MIA for reasons unknown. This is a continuation of the casual attitude that the Avs development staff has shown towards the minor league affiliate and not a good sign that anything has changed with the move to the Eagles.
Greg Cronin started of his coaching career at Colby College in 1987 and did 2 stints at the University of Maine along with a few years at Colorado College before moving to the new USNTDP in 1996. His first pro job was as an assistant with the Islanders in 1999 where he eventually became the AHL coach along with being Director of Development in Bridgeport for a couple of years. After 6 years as head coach at Northeastern he came back to the NHL with the ill-fated Randy Carlisle staff in Toronto then rejoined the Islanders, where he spent the last 4 seasons.
Cronin is definitely experienced, he has a pure volume of time spent behind the bench but I do worry about the quality of experience. The Islanders are not a shining example of success to put it mildly and while injuries and management decisions played a part in his firing and the defensive problems this year in Brooklyn, the squad itself was one of the most porous in recent NHL history. He worked with former Avs D coach Dave Farrish under Randy Carlisle in Toronto, a team that was not highly thought of as an example of solid modern hockey, and Farrish was basically fired by the Avs 2 years ago. I think it’s fair to call this hiring questionable or even troubling. Given the Avs terrible track record in the AHL over the past decade+ they don’t get the benefit of the doubt until they show they deserve it. Hopefully this is a start…
Moving on to better news, the Avs and Eagles have affiliated with the Utah Grizzlies for the upcoming season. The Grizzlies are a solid and long-running franchise plus the proximity to Denver and Loveland is about as good as you could hope for. ECHL rosters come together much closer to the start of the season but we’ll be keeping an eye on them over the summer and into training camp.
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Now that the general things are out of the way, we can get into the specifics over the next month and a half leading into rookie camp. Just to give you a hint at what’s we have in store for Eagles fans this year, Rudo will be covering the team on site, we’ll have podcasts throughout the season on the progress of the team and especially the players and I’ll have this column as a regular overview and look inside the numbers. Thanks for your continued support and welcome to the Eagles Desk.