Tomorrow night the Cleveland Monsters kick off the 2019-20 season with a roadtrip to take on the Laval Rocket in Quebec. As the season draws closer, more story lines begin to take shape. There are five in particular I am quite interested in seeing how they shake out.
Last season, Brad Thiessen pulled double duty as both starting netminder and coach. This season, it’s Chris Clark’s turn to juggle responsibilities as General Manager and Development Coach. Those are two important and stressful roles to fill simultaneously. Even Clark recognizes it will be a bit of a challenge to pull double duty this season.
I’m curious to see how Clark is going to handle having to separate the two positions from one another.
“I’m still going to be around. I’m still going to be on the ice, behind the bench with the guys on certain games. There’ll be some decisions, some really hard decisions because I’ve become really close with some of the guys.” - General Manager and Development Coach Chris Clark
New Season, New Coach, New Energy
On June 18th, the Monsters announced their biggest offseason signing with the hiring of Mike Eaves as Head Coach. The energy surrounding the team is already different with Eaves at the helm. Plus, many of the players are excited to have him on board.
“He seems to want to teach the game the right way. He’s makes the game a little bit more fun, different way of thinking. It doesn’t matter if I’m in my 12th year or someone’s first year that they’re always learning and trying to do new things. For me I’m always open to learn anything. For him he likes to teach. So, I think we’re all excited.” - Forward Nathan Gerbe
If Gerbe is genuinely excited, you know it's going to be a good year for the team.
The Small But Mighty Squad
In a league full of 6’ and up players, the Monsters have collected a few smaller players who pack a punch on and off the ice. What Derek Barach (5’8”), Nathan Gerbe (5’4”), and Trey Fix-Wolanksy (5’7”) lack in height they make up for in skill and personality. Their skating is supreme and they pack the right amount of punch against the opposition. Plus, they each have an abundance of energy which allows them to zip around the ice non stop.
I'm curious to see how they do against the larger teams in the league like the Rochester Americans.
Veterans We Didn’t Expect to be Sent Down to the Monsters
In a shocking turn of events, both Marko Dano and Markus Hannikainen were sent down to the Monsters for the start of the season. Due to the overwhelming amount of forwards in the system, we knew one was likely getting sent down. It never entered my mind both would be sent to Cleveland.
The way Dano and Hannikainen handle their stint in Cleveland this season will give us a glimpse of what's to come for the rest of their professional hockey career.
The loss of Tommy Cross to the Florida Panthers organization during free agency was a tough hit for the Monsters’ defense. He brought a nice mix of leadership, aggression, and skill to the team last year.
Cross' departure gives guys like Doyle Somerby and Ryan Collins a chance to show the league what they bring to the table.
Adam Clendening will be another interesting story to follow along with this season. The 2019-20 season will be his year to prove he's more than a fill in for when the Jackets' defense is injured.