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From the Booth: The Monsters are back!

From the Booth: The Monsters are Back!

Jan 8, 2021

Hey there Monsters fans! I know it’s been a while since we last talked in this forum, but we’re back in the wake of the newsiest AHL week since March – that’s right, the Monsters are back! Well, in early February at least…

 

The AHL Returns!

After what seemed like endless uncertainty, AHL fans, players, staffers, and coaches all received the news they’ve been longing for – the 2020-21 season is happening, and the Monsters are IN! While many details remain to be revealed in the near future, including a shortened schedule, here’s what we know so far:

 

  • The Monsters will return to the Central Division for the first time since Cleveland departed for the North Division prior to the 2018-19 season.

  • The 2020-21 AHL season will feature divisional play with Cleveland’s Central Division foes including historical rivals like the Chicago Wolves, Grand Rapids Griffins, Iowa Wild, Rockford IceHogs, and Texas Stars. The season begins on February 5th.

  • Mike Eaves will return for his second season as Monsters Head Coach under the guidance of returning Cleveland General Manager Chris Clark.

  • Three AHL clubs (Charlotte, Milwaukee, and Springfield) have “opted out” for 2020-21, forcing three other NHL clubs into so-called “dual affiliations” for this season only. Chicago will host the prospects belonging to their new NHL affiliate, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Nashville Predators (Milwaukee’s affiliate), while Syracuse will utilize players from their parent organization, the Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as Florida Panthers prospects that would’ve competed in Charlotte this year. Also, Utica will be hosting both their own Vancouver Canucks prospects and those belonging to the St. Louis Blues, who would have otherwise been Springfield T-Birds this season.

  • For some teams like Binghamton, San Diego, and Ontario (CA), their NHL affiliates’ practice facilities will serve as their temporary homes, while other teams (including the Monsters) will play out of their home arenas, whether in front of fans, limited crowds, or empty buildings.

  • Which team will reign supreme in the first-of-its-kind Canadian Division? With the US-Canadian border still closed to travel, will it be Manitoba, Belleville, Laval, or Toronto claiming national bragging rights? One way to find out!

 

What I’m Watching For

As a broadcaster, I’m constantly thinking of things in terms of storylines and this season, there is no shortage of compelling topics. Some of the through-lines I’m tracking include:

 

  • How challenging will it be for players to go from months of downtime straight into training camp?

  • How will NHL taxi squads effect the competitive balance of the AHL this year?

  • Will we see a deluge of AHL signings at some point? There’s a bunch of unsigned veteran talent out there…

  • How will varied settings (practice rinks, reduced attendance) impact on-ice intensity?

  • With the focus squarely placed on development and development alone this season, does winning take a backseat across the league due to these extraordinary circumstances? It would seem so.

 

I know I’m not alone in longing for a return to Rocket Mortage FieldHouse under normal conditions, surrounded by thousands of screaming Monsters fans, but for the time being, I’m just really excited about hearing the skates cut the ice again and getting back to those simple, small things that we so often take for granted but, to me, have always meant the most about our game. Looks like it’s time to dust off the ol’ headset – something I’m truly thankful for. See you on the air!

 

Remember, tweet any questions you may have – hockey-related or otherwise – to @TonyBrownPxP or @monstershockey using the #MonstersMailbag hashtag! Until next time, please continue to wash your hands, wear your masks and stay distant – we’re all in this together and we’re still not out of the woods yet!

 

Be well and stay safe!

TB

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