The American Hockey League can never be accused of being boring.
New teams, affiliations, rule changes and a total of twelve coaching changes this summer.
(Edited August 31, 2016)
Here’s a run-down of the later.
Lake Erie Monsters: Departed: Jared Bednar – Hired: John Madden
Jared Bednar led the dark horses of the AHL playoffs to a Calder Cup Championship, during his first season as head coach of Lake Erie Monsters.
There’s a fair amount of irony to his being hired by the Colorado Avalanche, who were affiliated with the Monsters just the season before.
Filling those huge shoes will be rookie John Madden.
Since retiring in 2011/12, with over a thousand cumulative NHL games to his name and three Stanley cups, Madden went straight back into the game wearing a suit.
A season scouting for the Montreal Canadiens was followed by three years as assistant coach of the Florida Panthers. During his time in the sunshine state, Madden was responsible for coaching defenseman and the penalty kill.
The Ontario native had been fired by Florida and was planning to head back to University to finish a degree before the Blue Jackets hired Madden just days after Bednar departed.
It’s somewhat of a gamble all round, with this the first head coaching job of Madden’s career but there’s a lot of positivity around his hiring with the all around experience he brings to the role.
There’s far much history than meets the eye to this appointment, with Blue Jackets GM Bill Zito, having been Madden’s agent during the forward’s playing career.
Toby Petersen and Steve McCarthy will be joining as assistant coaches, along with goaltending coach Manny Legace.
Rochester Americans: Departed: Randy Cunneyworth – Hired: Dan Lambert
Dan Lambert has been given the task of resurrecting the Rochester Americans.
Randy Cunneyworth was somewhat a victim of circumstances with little in the way of young talent and a roster blended of mostly AHL lifers and players from the ECHL.
The Amerks have finished rock bottom of the North Division two years running, recording losing seasons and allowing a combined 500 goals in the process.
Lambert was drafted 106 overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989 but his career never amounted to more than 29 NHL games.
Some valuable time in the AHL and IHL was followed by the last ten seasons of his playing days spent in Germany.
The Manitoba native began his coaching career with the Kelowna Rockets (WHL).
Five seasons as an assistant before one as head coach for the Rockets before the call came from the NHL.
Lambert was an assistant with the Buffalo Sabres this past season and now takes a familiar route to AHL head coaching that many others have before him.
It’s a brand new staff for the Amerks with Chuck Weber and Brad Tapper named as assistant coaches.
Weber was previously head coach for Rochester before heading to Europe with some mixed success, more recently in the UK.
Tapper has enjoyed some success in the ECHL before joining the Chicago Wolves as assistant for the last two seasons under John Anderson.
Syracuse Crunch: Departed: Rob Zettler – Hired: Julien BriseBois
Somewhat surprisingly, Zettler was fired just a month after being given an endorsement by Tampa Bay assistant general manager, Julien BriseBois.
The former Toronto Maple Leafs coach was hired midway through the 2012-13 season and guided the Crunch to the Calder Cup final.
They would fall in the first round of the post-season in 2014 and have failed to qualify for the playoffs in the two seasons since.
Syracuse already had their “guy” lined up and Benoit Groulx was appointed on May 10.
Groulx’s playing days as a professional were spent in Belgium and France, but he returned to Canada to coach in the QMJHL, where he began as a junior.
The Quebec native has spent time with Shawinigan Cataractes, Hull Olympiques and most recently Gatineau Olympiques, for whom he was also employed as the GM for four seasons.
Sandwiched in-between times, Groulx has some AHL experience as head coach of the Rochester Americans for two seasons.
The first year was somewhat of a disaster as the team finished rock bottom of the league with a 29-43-0-8 record.
The turnaround the following season saw Rochester make the playoffs after winning 44 games, but they would fall 4-3 in the first round of the playoffs to Abbotsford Heat.
He’s also been a part of the Canada coaching scene in recent times and been linked with plenty of AHL and NHL jobs (said to have been interview by Ottawa), post his time with Rochester.
Tampa and Syracuse will be hoping that Groulx’s excellent record of producing junior players and his penchant for winning seasons, continues.
Charlotte Checkers: Departed: Mark Morris – Hired: Ulf Samuelsson
Mark Morris perhaps walked before he was pushed, and accepted a job offer from St. Lawrence University.
Morris will be going back to his roots by coaching college hockey once again, where he earned over 300 wins.
It took Charlotte almost a month to fill the vacancy but they did with huge boots.
Ulf Samuelsson is name well known to NHL fans, with the noted enforcer having amassed almost 2500 penalty minutes in 15 years. A trade from Hartford to Pittsburgh saw him collect consecutive Stanley Cups but he would begin his coaching career back with the Whalers.
One season with Hartford would be followed by five as assistant coach of the Coyotes before heading back to Sweden with Modo for his first head coaching stint.
His two seasons back home helped put Modo back on an even keel without achieving success and Samuelsson would spend the last three seasons as an assistant with the New York Rangers before agreeing to become the Charlotte Checkers third head coach in as many seasons.
The Checkers are one of the newer organisations in the AHL and bar a Conference final appearance in their inaugural season, have failed to give home fans much to cheer about.
Missing the playoffs in four of the last five years, Ulf Samuelsson’s task is not an easy one.
How the Swedish native will sculpt what looks on paper to be a young team, should be an interesting watch, while he himself tries to adapt to the intricacies of the AHL and his first head coaching job in North America.
Binghamton Senators: Departed: Luke Richardson – Hired: Kurt Kleinendorst
Luke Richardson spent four seasons coaching in the Ottawa organisation but will be moving to pastures new after being overlooked for the Senators top job.
After three years as Ottawa’s assistant coach, Richard has been the head honcho in Binghamton for the last four seasons.
The first two years were relatively successful but fell to WBS Pens at the first hurdle on each occasion. The last two saw the B-Sens fail to produce a winning record with a lack of resources player wise, a huge contributing factor.
By hiring Kurt Kleinendorst, Ottawa could be accused of moving backwards instead of looking to the future. The 55yo has a ton of coaching experience and was succeeded by Richardson after a two year tenure in which Kleinendorst helped Binghamton win their sole Championship.
The Grand Rapids native has not enjoyed success in his time away from the B-Sens, having spent time in the NCCA, been fired by the Iowa Wild and spent one half season at German club ERC Ingolstadt.
Hardly a glowing endorsement for a man that the Senators will rely upon to develop their future.
Springfield Thunderbirds (were Portland Pirates) Departed: Scott Allen – Hired: Geordie Kinnear
With Arizona buying and taking the franchise formerly known as the Springfield Falcons to Tucson, the Portland Pirates were sold to a Springfield consortium and will continue to be the farm team of the Florida Panthers.
At 42 years old, Geordie Kinnear is one of the young coaches in the AHL, but he has a wealth of experience in the development league.
After spending ten years predominantly as a player at this level, Kinnear went straight into coaching and bar one season as a “special assignment scout” for New Jersey, his experience has been gained as an assistant coach.
Roles with the Albany River Rats and most recently Charlotte Checkers were both in the latter capacity and this is Kinner’s first head coaching role.
As a player he won a Calder Champion Championship with Albany, whom he captained for three seasons and was selected to play in four consecutive AHL All-Star Classics.
Whether he can recreate such success as a head coach only time will tell, in what’s likely to be an arduous task with a team lacking success in recent history and issues coaching a new franchise can bring.
Manitoba Moose: Departed: Keith McCambridge – Hired: Pascal Vincent
There’s no doubt that the Manitoba Moose were a bad team last season but the Winnipeg organisation making Keith McCambridge the scapegoat is nothing but bizarre.
Two years after taking St. John’s to the Calder Cup final, McCambridge was left with one of the worst rosters in the AHL for Manitoba’s return to the league. Nine rookies, a lack of offensive capabilities up-front and no help from the big club when it was clear the Moose were being heavily outmatched on a nightly basis.
To the credit of McCambridge, each player called up to the Jets failed to let him down, while Manitoba finished the season 9-5-0-0, a far cry from their early struggles.
There no reason to think then that Pascal Vincent will find life any easier in his first professional head coaching role, unless the Jets redress the roster issue.
Though not short of experience, this will be Vincent’s first go-around in the American Hockey League.
The Quebec native’s career behind the bench spans 13 years in the QMJHL and the last five seasons as an assistant with the Winnipeg Jets.
Iowa Wild: Departed: David Caniff – Hired: Derek Lalonde
The Iowa Wild have consistently been one of the worst American Hockey League teams since their inception in 2013.
Minnesota moved the franchise from Houston where the Aeros had some success, but the Wild are yet to record a winning record , with a seasonal best of just 27 wins.
Kurt Kleinendorst and John Torchetti were the previous full time head coaches but Derek Lalonde will officially take over the reigns from interim coach (since February 2016) David Cunniff.
There’s no doubting the size of the task awaiting 41yo Lalonde but he’s a man with plenty of coaching experience despite his relative tender years.
The NY native have been coaching since the mid 90’s but has only recently made the jump to the professional game after long spells in the NCAA and USHL.
As a rookie head coach in the ECHL, Lalonde made an immediate impact by leading Toledo to a 50-15-5-2 record in the 2014/15 season. The Walleye were the regular season champions but fell in the Eastern Conference Final.
Lalonde was named ECHL Coach of the Year for Toledo’s achievement, including a 58 point improvement from the previous season.
Toledo won a second straight Eastern Conference championship last season but would fall in the first round to Reading in seven games.
Tucson Roadrunners (were Springfield Falcons): Departed: Ron Rolston – Hired: Mark Lamb
The first coach in Tucson roadrunners history is Mark Lamb.
An unsurprising appointment when you consider Lamb spent six seasons as an assistant to Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett, when Tippett was behind the bench in Dallas from 2002-09.
Since then the Saskatchewan native has spent the last six years coaching the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos.
Lamb’s lack of experience in the AHL will be supplemented by the hiring of Mark Hardy, who was assistant to John Anderson the final two seasons and will fulfil that role in Tucson.
Perhaps the biggest task for the new head coach is the fact this is essentially a brand new team and that provides it’s own set of challenges, especially when you consider there’s so much to cram in during one summer.
Chicago Wolves: Departed: John Anderson – Hired: Craig Berube
It’s always tough to replace a coach that has achieved much success and is considered a folk hero by fans.
Stepping into John Anderson’s shoes will be the experienced Craig Berube, who is taking his first coaching job outside the Philadelphia organisation.
Berube has experienced success in the AHL with the Philadelphia Phantoms, having been an assistant coach during the 2005 Championship season, where ironically they defeated the Wolves in the final.
As the head coach in 2007/08, the Alberta native led the Phantoms to a 46 win season but the Phantoms would fall in the second round.
More recently, the 50yo spent two seasons as the Flyers head coach, compiling a record of 75-58-28 record, though the first year was far better than the second.
Apparently Berube sat on this offer for a while before accepting (allegedly waiting on other teams) and this job could be considered a job interview in itself, despite signing a two year contract.
With Ken Hitchcock stepping down next season from the St. Louis Blues top job, there will be an assistant coaches position available with Mike Yeo due to step up.
Also it should be noted that Berube scouted for the Blues late last season and will live in Chicago during the season while his family stay’s put in Pennsylvania.
San Antonio Rampage: Departed: Dean Chynoweth – Hired: Eric Veilleux
After a three season stint as head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters, it was one year and you’re out for Dean Chynoweth.
2015-16 was a torrid season for San Antonio, who finished with a losing record after an 8-1-3-0 beginning.
Losing streaks of four, seven and fours games respectively occurred between November 20 and January 3, creating a hole they were unable to climb out of.
The Rampage may have been missing out on Colorado’s top prospects but those in the AHL weren’t developing or producing the performance and results, leading to Chynoweth losing his job.
Replacing him is 44yo Eric Veilleux, who begun his professional coaching career with the Norfolk Admirals.
First as an assistant in the American Hockey League during the 2014-15 season and then as the head coach when the team moved to the ECHL for the 2015-16 campaign.
The Quebec City Native was certainly used to winning during his time in the QMJHL, posting a .579 win percentage and his teams always made the post season. That is something San Antonio have failed to do on a regular basis since their inception.
The 11th coach in Rampage history has a big task on his hands to turn the fortunes of a team that finished bottom of the Pacific Division last season.
Providence Bruins : Departed: Bruce Cassidy – Hired: Kevin Dean
The Boston organisation have decided to hire in-house with Kevin Dean replacing Bruce Cassidy.
Cassidy is taking a job as an assistant coach with the Boston Bruins after five seasons as the head honcho behind the Providence bench.
All five seasons were winning ones for Cassidy, compiling a 207-149-24 overall record and attaining one divisional title.
Dean is the 11th head coach in Providence Bruins history after five seasons as an assistant with Boston’s affiliate.
This will be the 47yo’s second head coaching job having taken the reigns of the Trenton Devils (ECHL) during the 2010/11 season. Previous to that, Dean had spent four year as the Lowell Devils (AHL) assistant coach, having wasted little time getting into coaching after his playing career was over.
The Madison, Wisconsin native played 331 games in the NHL with New Jersey, Atlanta, Dallas and Chicago.
He also captained the Albany River Rats to a Calder Cup championship in 1994/95 and in the same season won the Stanley Cup with New Jersey Devils (last player to win both the Stanley Cup and Calder Cup in the same season).
The transition for Providence should be a smooth one with Dean having been a key part of the furniture in recent seasons, and worked closely with all the upcoming prospects in the organisation.
The former defenseman has plenty of experience, coaching and playing in the American Hockey League, so don’t expect much to change as far as the P-Bruins seasonal goals are concerned.