The American Hockey League is a funny spot for a coach.
Thursday’s news of Lake Erie bench boss David Quinn moving on up to join NHL affiliate Colorado as an assistant makes the Monsters the ninth team to change head coaches in the off-season. That is also before taking into consideration the movement of Norfolk coach Jon Cooper, who faces the very real possibility of a completely new roster come fall as Tampa officially announced an affiliation change away from the reigning Calder Cup champions.
So many variables come into play behind the AHL bench.
In many markets there is pressure from NHL brass to provide premium minutes to NHL hopefuls, whether they’re ready for it or not. Struggles between affiliates have spilled over into the news as privately owned AHL clubs fight to ice a winning product as National League counterparts wish only for development.
The quality of team travel, although rarely discussed openly, changes from AHL city to AHL city. Long game day bus rides and Mr. Sub dinners doesn’t exactly provide a coach with the professional atmosphere he tries to preach in the room.
Lack of communication, tempting job offers and desire to be closer to family; the factors we all weigh plague a coach no differently.
Dallas Eakins enters a shortened off-season with a contract providing a place within the Maple Leafs organization for three more years. If lived out, it’ll have meant six years as head coach after spending time heading up the team’s player development sector and assisting behind former coach Paul Maurice at both the NHL and AHL level. A total commitment of ten years.
The recipe to keeping a coach:
“First and foremost I like the guys that I work for; and I think that’s important.
I’m not only not told who to play, I’m able to go in and be a fly on the wall at the draft; I’m part of free agency; I’m part of the trade deadline. I’m pretty sure there’s no other American Hockey League coach that is able to learn other parts of this game as I am.
I am able to cut my teeth with some very good players here to learn more about coaching and to get better.”
To be appreciated, to have a chance to grow and to see success of your hard work. Doesn’t seem all that different than what any of us look for.
While a hefty portion of the league will welcome a new coach, a new system and head towards a new outlook; Toronto is thrilled to stay put.
Eakins’ Marlies registered 33 wins and 78 points in the coach’s first season, 37 victories with 85 points in his second and 44 wins with 96 points in the most recent run.
Oh, and one can’t leave out a trip to the AHL finals.