Since we have nothing better to do but rosterbate until training camp, here's a first look at what we have for your beloved Monsters in the coming season. At the moment, the Avs still have one development contract left for some lucky hockey player, maybe it could be you.
Signed (11) - Andrew Agozzino, Troy Bourke, Trevor Cheek, Dennis Everberg, Mitch Heard, Sam Henley, Garrett Meurs, Borna Rendulic, Mike Sgarbossa, Colin Smith, Ben Street
Qualified RFAs - Joey Hishon, Paul Carey
Speculation: Landon Smith has been invited to Avs prospect camp this week, I don't know if there are plans to give him a tryout once regular camp begins. He's committed to playing for Quinnipiac in the NCAA this year but would be eligible to sign a Free Agent contract if he felt like it. Nate Condon is still Avs property until August 15th, as is Luke Moffatt, they could figure into the mix somehow. ATOs Kyle Hope and Johnny McInnis are still Free Agents at-large and could be invited to either Avs camp or Monsters Camp. The Avs let Joseph Blandisi's rights expire in June, but he got a raw deal being out with illness for the last half of the season, I wouldn't be surprised to see him signed to an AHL contract.
In Daniel Maggio's exit interview with Doug Plagens, he remarked that he would be keeping in touch with the Monsters training staff over the summer, so he will likely be involved with the team. When Vincent Arseneau signed with the Monsters over a year ago, he hinted that it was a 2-year deal, so take that for what it's worth. I still hold a faint glimmer of hope that Michael Schumacher returns to Cleveland, but it's not promising.
Assuming Ryan O'Reilly is still with Colorado in 2 months, there are one too many forwards on the NHL roster, so the possibility exists of having one of the bottom-6 forwards headed to Lake Erie.
Signed (5) - Gabe Beaupre, Cody Corbett, Bruno Gervais, Markus Lauridsen, Duncan Siemens
Qualified RFA - Karl Stollery
Speculation: Thanks to ATO Max Iafrate's S&C coach on twitter, we know that he will be in Denver for Prospects Camp this week. The good folks over at HF Boards seem to believe that ATO Matt Pufahl will also be attending. This will probably lead to these fellows signing AHL contracts in the Fall. I've been trying to dig around for info on Gus Young, there was a report that he was negotiating with the Avs in May, so if nothing has been reached at this point it's unlikely we see him in a Monsters uniform, but his rights are held until 8/15 and stranger things have happened.
Like with the Forward situation, the Avs have one too many Defensemen assuming Barrie and Elliott are re-signed. I'm a little less sure we'll see anyone sent down here. Elliott and Redmond probably wouldn't make it through waivers, I can't see Patrick demoting Guenin and who knows what happens to Wilson if he can't make the final squad.
Signed (3) - Sami Aittokallio, Calvin Pickard, Roman Will
Speculation: Other than Varly being the starter for the Avs, I have no idea about anything else for the goalies in the system. Everything else is wide open and I could see any of these guys, including Berra, anywhere on the depth chart. The "all goes well" scenario is Berra as backup in Colorado, Picks & Sami back for a third year in Lake Erie and promising newcomer Roman Will starting with the Cutthroats. We'll see.
A little refreshing info on our new signings and invitees:
Ben Street - Smart two-way scoring center, had 28G/32A for hated Abbotsford last year (hey! he probably knows Yogi!). Played on some fine teams at the University of Wisconsin, captain senior year, was an alternate captain for the Heat. I'm projecting he will add some vet scoring like Billy Thomas did 2 years ago. A.J. had the initial MHH look at him here.
Bruno Gervais - A 6'/187# RH defenseman that has 623 pro games including 423 in the NHL, mainly with the Islanders. Not much of a scorer, but does average a half point a game in the AHL. Here's A.J.'s take from FA day.
Matt Pufahl - A big (6'3/210#) offensive defenseman and former captain of the Everett Silvertips in the WHL. Also played with Duncan Siemens on the Saskatoon Blades in 12-13. Found his way into 5 games with the Monsters on an ATO at the end of last year, playing a bunch with Brett Clark and scoring an empty net goal in the penultimate game of the year for his only point.
Max Iafrate - Son of the legend Al, Iafrate played for Kitchener with Avs draft pick Nick Magyar last year and got into one game for the Monsters on his ATO. Another big fellow (6'2/218#), he's more defensively oriented but still ended up with 8G/22A in the OHL last year.
* * * * *
Ok, now the fun begins. What do we do with these guys? The Monsters were all over the map with lineup strategies last year, 4 3rd lines, 2 2nds & 2 4ths, nothing stayed the same for long and honestly nothing worked very well. I don't blame Coach Dean much for that, if there was a perfect lineup he would have stumbled upon it. The personnel were the issue and ultimately led to lines that were too small or too passy or too gritty. I'm going to throw out a few lines here with some pros & cons.
This line could be worrisome on defense but it should kick ass offensively, tough to say without seeing Rendulic yet. A skilled playmaker, a center that can shoot and pass, and a big scoring RW. Sheltered zone starts might be the key to this one working.
Good balanced line that will play well at both ends. A big guy for Smitty to feed and Aggz grit + scoring makes this one look pretty effective on paper. Henley's speed and inexperience might make this a stretch for him, but ultimately I think it's the right type of mix. Trevor Cheek could play the LW role at the expense of some size too.
A good-skating power forward mixed with the blinding speed of Carey & Bourke. This one would be fun to watch as long as Bourke and Everberg can get up to par on the defensive system.
As far as the 4th goes, you have a mishmash of stuff left, Sgarbossa, Cheek, Heard, Meurs plus any of the AHL signees that stick around in Cleveland. It's a good mishmash tho', each one of those guys have certain skills/attributes that will let them sub into the top-9 when needed. It's also customary to start a goon against most of the teams in our division, that could be Maggio in most cases.
I consciously avoided some mistakes of the past like having 3 smaller guys together or 3 passers and no shooters or the all meathead line. The top 3 I have came out like 3 versions of the same thing, a skilled set, a 2-way set and a speedy set, which gives some flexibility in the use and personnel if needed. Lack of consistency has been a huge issue for the last couple of years, a system like this will make it easier not to collapse if a player or two get injured or called up..
Now for the defense:
Top pairing for both shutdown and offense. This would be great for both players, Stollery gets a defensively responsible partner after a year of babysitting Hunwick, so he can let the offense flow more and Duncan gets top pairing duties with a partner that's heading into the second year there.
Rookie offensive guy with the experienced vet. Gervais will probably paired with whichever rookie D is playing best at the time, similar to Brett Clark's role last year.
Relatively experienced and balanced 3rd pair. These guys have been paired up for most of their time together with the Monsters and both of their contracts are up next June.
If Pufahl makes the team, he would have a good shot at displacing someone as a starter. I only saw Iafrate for one game so no opinion yet on whether he breaks into the lineup right away. If the Avs end up sending someone down, they will of course be in the starting lineup.
* * * * *
I haven't said anything about coaching yet, because as far as I know Coach Dean is still in place. What he would do with this roster is another story. This is a marked change in talent and experience from what he's had in years past. By definition, Gervais is the only veteran on the team so far and the only one that's even close. Street is the 2nd most experienced with 3 1/2 years in the AHL and 177 major pro games, then comes Aggz with 2 years and 153 games and Stollery with 151. It will be interesting to see who the team pick as captain and alternates.
Also, the Monsters might find themselves in a new division next season with Abbotsford moving to the Adirondacks, who knows which one, but it seems likely there will be a few changes in the league.
* * * * *
That's one blogger's vision, what would you like to see?