Over the past couple of articles I've been looking at how the Monsters have struggled this year and the reasons why that go back to last summer's Free Agent Day and beyond. Now it's time to look ahead to next year and what our beloved Monsters have and have not.
The Core: These fellows are signed for next year and there is reasonable expectation they start on the LEM roster
Forwards: Mitch Heard, Colin Smith, Garrett Meurs, Trevor Cheek, Andrew Agozzino, Mike Sgarbossa
Defense: Duncan Siemens, Gabe Beaupre, Markus Lauridsen
Goalies: Calvin Pickard, Sami Aittokallio
Mark Olver - Hard to gauge the Avs interest in re-signing him and he might rather play for a team that will continue his one-way contract status.
Brad Malone - Coach Roy's comments about trading him if he isn't on the Avs next year and the signing of Marc-Andre Cliche make it look like he won't be back.
Stefan Elliott - Definite re-sign. Best year so far development-wise and still has upside. Won't be waiver eligible for another couple years so he can do spot duty in Colorado while continuing to hone his defensive skills in Lake Erie.
Paul Carey - Another case where it's hard to gauge the Avs interest, but I'd really like to see him stay.
Karl Stollery - Keeps getting better and didn't embarrass himself in the callup to Colorado. This was a show-me contract, maybe he gets another.
Kent Patterson & Kieran Millan - No clue on how this shakes out. I'd say only one is needed going forward and it would be better if it was on an AHL contract. Only wild card for these guys is if Sami or Picks end up as the backup for the Avs somehow.
Joey Hishon - What do you do with a highly talented 1st round pick that just can't stay healthy? I honestly don't know. Keep him in the AHL? Keep his rights and send him to Europe? Cut bait? More questions than answers.
Bryan Lerg - Captain and leading scorer when healthy. Two blown knees in two years. Still participates in team events and helps out with the young players. If there's any chance he can come back, keep him. If not, make him a coach.
J.T. Wyman - De facto captain with Lerg out, provides leadership, size and solid 2-way play. Keep keep keep.
David Van der Gulik - Major knee surgery last summer, came back and broke foot, now out with head trauma, turns 31 in April. Sorry Vandy, I love ya, but you're done.
Gil Desbiens - Great guy and has proven he's more than a talentless goon. Wouldn't be surprised if he's gone though, LEM need a bit more production out of the veteran spots. Not a crisis if he stays either.
Matt Hunwick - Gone
Brett Clark - If he's interested in staying on an AHL deal, sign him up!
Michael Schumacher - Get this dude an Avalanche contract, stat.
Dan Maggio - Mostly a goon defenseman, but he's not bad at actually playing defense either. Keep on an AHL deal.
Gus Young - Big, mobile defenseman with some scoring ability. Yes please.
Nate Condon - Speed, skill, 2-way player, captain of the #2 Gophers this year. Heard nothing but good things about him. On paper, he appears to need a contract
Luke Moffatt - I'll defer any opinion to those that know his game, no idea if he gets a contract
Troy Bourke - Racking up points on a bad PG Cougars team this year, looked good in training camp, I like his chances on getting a contract
Joseph Blandisi - Good size and can score, I also like his chances on getting a contract
Michael Clarke - Not sure he gets an offer with so many guys waiting to sign this year. Maybe an AHL deal.
There's also the chance of signing an undrafted college FA or CHL player like Cheek last year.
Blandisi, et al
Lauridsen,Maggio, et al
Even with all the above unknowns, this is looking like a pretty solid bunch already. Throw in a decent veteran FA defenseman and a veteran Billy Thomas type forward that can put the puck in the net, do a little better on the AHL tryouts and we're in business. It's still going to be a very young roster but I'm fine with that. You have the leadership from Lerg and Wyman and 2 other guys that have worn the A in Stef Elliott and Andrew Agozzino.Sure, older rosters have a greater chance at consistency and success, but I'm more interested in seeing talented young Avs prospects develop in the AHL than filling a lineup with older players that are past the point of having a shot at the NHL.
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The beloved Monsters [23-25-5] take a little road trip through southern Ontario this weekend. Friday night features the Hamilton Bulldogs [23-25-5] at Copps Coliseum and then Sunday afternoon LEM face the Marlies [32-17-4] in Toronto.
So far this week, the Monsters have faced the conference leading Texas Stars twice. The Monsters played fantastic 5v5 in Tuesday morning's game but surrendered 2 PPGs and ended up with a 2-1 loss. Recap here. Wednesday night's game was another very even game that ended up in the skills comp with LEM winning 3-2. Recap here.
This week's injury update has some weirdness. Sami Aittokallio took a puck to the head during a shootout drill in practice Monday and has been out since. Mark Olver left Tuesday's game in the 1st period with an undisclosed UBI. Hishon and Lauridsen remain out with their ailments, Desjardins has been skating with the team recently but hasn't been back for a game yet, and of course captain Lerg is out for the year.
Monsters at Bulldogs Friday 7:30pm ET, radio on WKNR
Monsters at Marlies Sunday 3:00pm ET, radio on WHKW
AHL standings - Monsters tied for 12th in the WC, 3rd in the North, 7 pts out of the playoffs
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As usual, I'll be here and on twitter with updates and info for the weekend games. Stop by before the Coyotes game Friday or spend a nice Sunday afternoon with your Lake Erie Monsters.
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