The Eagles had their AHL preseason kick off party Wednesday night. The event showed off the new AHL jerseys and gave us our first introduction to new head coach Greg Cronin. I had the opportunity to talk to Coach Cronin as well as Avalanche assistant general manager Craig Billington at the event. Some of the interview highlights are below.
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On how he got the job:
“It was weird, I got fired late… I just started working the phones, and [Garth Snow] knew Joe [Sakic] from playing in Quebec, so Garth reached out to him. The other connection was Joe is friendly with Paul Kariya, and I had coached Paul back at Maine and we had remained friends. I had connections with some of the other open jobs but Joe was really good… They really wanted to get someone with experience that coached in the NHL and could understand what it took to play in the NHL. We talked for about an hour and a half and he said he would get back to me…Then I think the next day, he called me and offered me the job and I said I’m on board.”
On coaching in the AHL:
“Even when I was in the NHL, I said that the AHL is the best league in the world to coach in. The coachability of the players, there was not a lot of, Mike Milbury called it, the trimmings of the game get in the way sometimes. I just enjoyed it, the practices. In the NHL you get some quality practices in the first couple months and then you are trying to manage energy. With the AHL, you have more of a college schedule, and you really have a big role in some of these kids’ lives. To me that’s a big part of it–you don’t coach the player, you coach the person.”
On his style of coaching:
“I think I’m very honest. I’m a teacher, and I don’t think there’s any way to establish a relationship without honesty. I work very hard. I’m open to different things. Whether its analytics, player development feedback, at the end of the day there has to be one system message, but I think I’m honest and I’m fair.”
On the Eagles playstyle:
“I don’t know what the team identity is going to be. It’s way too presumptuous to say ‘We are gonna play this way and the Avs are going to play that way.’ I talked to Joe and Jared [Bednar] and I do believe it’s important when you are dealing with special teams. If the Avalanche are penalty killing a certain way, you don’t want guys getting called up that don’t know how to kill with them. The systems are flexible, I don’t believe in running something like a trap up here. It’s just not fair to the kids. You have to analyze what your team’s strengths are. If you have defensemen that are mobile, you have to get up the ice and apply that four-man pressure. I’d rather players have to pull it back when they hit the NHL level than have to bring it up when they get there. It’s important that you have some sort of plan for the players that are going to get called up. If you can provide them an environment here where they are prepared to play with the Avalanche without sacrificing the strengths of the team, that’s the ideal world.”
On the proximity of the Eagles:
“The factors on moving players [between the NHL and AHL] could be injury driven, performance driven, lack of ice time driven, so you don’t really know. The nice part is it’s more convenient, and logistically it makes sense. There were previous times we’ve moved players just in case if there’s a game time decision we couldn’t afford to wait because they were coming from San Antonio or Cleveland. Here we can move them in real time and I think that’s very positive.”
On the open Director of Player Development position:
“Joe [Sakic] has a plan on internalizing the position for a couple reasons. If you look at the organization, we are going to have an extra assistant coach in our system for the first time at the minor league level. We also have a development staff that are currently at work. So when you take all that into account I think we are in an excellent position to manage the players both out in the field and here.”
Steph contributed minor editing to this article.