The wheels of the AHL moved fast last week as three teams announced new head coaches for the coming 2014/15 season.
Troy Mann was appointed as the new man to lead the Hershey Bears in what was a home coming for the 44 year old.
Mann missed out on the head coaching job last season after four years as an assistant, when Mike Haivland was given the role.
Upon losing out on the top position, Mann headed to the ECHL for the second time in his career, having previously been head coach with Columbia Inferno between 2006-2008.
In the second of his seasons with Columbia, he would lead them to the Conference Finals, a feat he would equal last season with Bakersfield Condors.
A choked-up Mann was clearly happy to be back with Hershey and said “Sorry, I told my wife (Lori) I wouldn’t do this,” Mann said. “It’s a real emotional time to come back to Hershey. I want to thank the Washington Capitals and the Hershey Bears organization, and especially Doug (Yingst) here, for giving me my opportunity.”
Yingst confirmed that Mann had come out on top of what had been a long process going through 71 applications for one of the most sought after and prestigious head coaching jobs in the AHL
During his four years as an assistant, Mann’s expertise mainly lie on the defensive side of the game including the penalty kill and during his time the Hershey Bears won the Calder Cup in the 2009/10 season. The captain during that championship year was Bryan Helmer and Mann wasted no time in appointing him as new assistant coach. Helmer was recently an assistant with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes but will be more known for his AHL playing exploits including all-time points leader for a blue-liner (564) and the third longest tenure in the league with 1,117 regular season games to his name.
Mann will be looking to replicate the success of when he was last with Hershey as the team finished in the AHL’s top ten for all four years and won a championship.
Derek Laxdal has the somewhat unenviable task of taking the reigns of the current Calder Cup Champions Texas Stars, replacing Willie Desjardins who heads for his first NHL top job with the Vancouver Canucks.
Laxdal’s stock has never been higher than it is right now having had three extremely successful seasons in charge of the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings.
The 20010/11 season would see the Kings record a losing season and a first round playoff exit but with Laxdal at the helm things quickly turned around as they went on to three straight seasons of 50+ wins, two championships and a finals loss.
It should come as no surprise to those in the know that Laxdal was in the running for this job as 5-6 years previous he’d also been interviewed before Texas hired Glen Gulatzan.
The Stars know all about Laxdal as he coached their ECHL affiliate, Idaho Steelheads for five seasons , taking them to the playoffs every year and recording a finals loss as well as a championship
At 48 years old, Laxdal is one of the older coaches to make the leap into the AHL and although having a great set-up and long term contract in place with the Oil Kings, he knew this might be his only chance to progress his coaching career.
Hockey has a way of bringing coaches and old players back together and with Texas being in the same division as Oklahoma City Barons, who they will face 12 times, Laxdal will likely be up against some former Oil Kings in Travis Ewanyk, David Musil, Martin Gernat, Laurent Brossoit and Mitch Moroz.
Mike Sothers is the new head coach of the Manchester Monarchs.
The 52 year old replaces Mark Morris, who although has the best record in the teams history, perhaps didn’t being the playoff success that the brass demanded.
Sothers is an extremely experienced man with 30 years in hockey and started his coaching career ten years ago starting with the Hershey Bears and then the Philadelphia Phantoms (who won a Calder Cup in 1998), both in an assistant capacity. Two years as an assistant with the Flyers in the NHL followed before taking the step down to the OHL with the Owen Sound attack.
Four years with Owen Sound led to the top job with the Grand Rapids Griffins in 2007/08 but his tenure was short after a losing season. Sothers would not be back in hockey 2010 whereupon he was named assistant of the Atlanta Thrashers. It’d be back to junior hockey, this time in the WHL with Moose Jaw Warriors, who after a very successful first season which ended with a conference final loss, the team was in rebuild mode and has struggled since, failing to make the post-season.
Sothers has the perfect opportunity to find some head coaching success with this franchise if his “firm but fair” approach works for the Monarchs.