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Enjoying The Summertime Blues

07/22/2011 3:02 PM - Mike Peck
I figured I’d submit a rare summer blog post. Actually, I looked today and couldn’t believe that the last post was way back on June 17!

Not that you care (and here comes the excuse), but I’ve taken a little vacation time and have been enjoying the summer.

A couple of thoughts as the summer approaches the homestretch:

Roster: Last season, the IceHogs featured the second youngest roster (behind only Abbotsford) for most of the season. Don’t expect next year’s team to be any older.  If you include Brett McLean, Rockford’s average age of their potential opening day roster would be 22.45 years old.

McLean, 33, right now is the only player ABOVE the age of 25. There could be seven 20-year olds, two 21-years olds and four that are 22. That’s 13 of the potential 22 players 22-or-younger. Now this list doesn’t include a second goalie and more than likely a veteran defenseman. So the average age will more than likely increase. Plus, you never know who is going to make Chicago out of training camp.

If you’re looking for more players signings, there really isn’t a whole lot of spots left on the roster. Like mentioned above, a goalie and a defenseman (maybe two) are still on the needs list in Rockford and maybe one more veteran forward.

Also, there will probably be a couple of more AHL contracted players signed to add depth that will more than likely start the season in Toledo.   You know they type: training camp standout, fans fall in love with and then gets sent to Toledo.

New Coach: There might have been some other candidates out there that had better looking resumes, but I believe Ted Dent was a great choice for the IceHogs head coaching position. He’s paid his dues (assistant coach for the past five seasons) and he knows the organization.

Unlike with the last time the IceHogs top coaching job was open, Teddy is ready to lead this team. With a big group of players returning next season, I think Ted will breathe a little fresh air into the group, while providing some continuity. Sounds hypocritical I know, but Ted has the energy and ability to continue the progress of these prospects.

As for Bill Peters, it’s great to see him get an opportunity to coach in the NHL. I know he took a lot of heat from IceHogs fans, but I feel he did a very good job here and deserved the promotion. Considering the team had four different 19-year olds on it last season with inconsistent goaltending and still finished five games above .500, that’s a pretty solid coaching job.

Western Conference Coaching Carousal:  Of the eight teams that were members of the AHL’s West Division last season, six of them will feature new head coaches in 2011-12. Of the six, four of the coaches were promoted to the NHL with San Antonio and Chicago losing their coaches due to affiliation changes. Only Peoria and Oklahoma City will return their coaches from last year.

If you count the North Division, 10 of the 15 teams in the AHL’s Western Conference will have new bench bosses behind the bench and interestingly, none of the 10 coaches were technically fired from their position. Seven coaches were promoted to the NHL and three markets will have new coaches to go along with new affiliations.

Compare that to last season’s Eastern Conference, just one team (Portland) will have a new coach, but coaches usually aren’t with one team in the AHL longer than a couple of seasons.

If there are no other coaching changes this summer, just seven of the 30 AHL teams will return their coach from two seasons ago. Grand Rapids (Curt Fraser-3rd season), Connecticut (Ken Gernander-4th season), Lake Erie (David Quinn-3rd season), Manchester (Mark Morris-5th season), Providence (Rob Murray-3rd season), Toronto (Dallas Eakins-3rd season) and Worcester (Roy Sommer-5th season) have the most consistency with their head coach entering 2011-12.

When Basketball Comes Before Hockey: If it seems that the AHL is always the last professional hockey league to unveil its schedule, it’s because it’s true.

The AHL has to wait for the NBA to finalize their schedule before it can produce theirs as five AHL teams (Houston, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Lake Erie and Charlotte) all share their building with NBA teams.

Well despite the lock out in the NBA, the league has announced its schedule so that means that the AHL can move forward with theirs.  I can’t give you a date, but it everything stays on track, hopefully the schedule will be released in early August.