What are your initial thoughts of the Monarchs’ play thus far?
JS: Slow starters….through the first 4 games they had not scored the first goal, so they keep putting themselves in a hole. That said, they seem adept at coming on strong. They were down to Providence 3-0, and lost 4-3. As the season progresses, this “comeback-ability” will be valued. They are learning Coach Sutter’s new system, so it will take a few games before they really start rolling.
IC: With the exception of a few stutters here and there, the overall energy level and hustle is quite evident with the Monarchs this season. They work hard every shift and apply steady pressure. It’s a team that can score in bunches so they are never out of a game.
Where do you see the Monarchs finishing in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference?
JS: We will need to go “once-around-the-horn,” to borrow a baseball term, before we can really tell how the Monarchs stack up. The fact that everyone is deeper and has NHL veterans on-board makes it a question mark right now.
IC: I would expect the Monarchs to contend for the Atlantic title this season, barring injuries and call-ups should the NHL play. But that’s the same for most teams. This Manchester team as it stands now is quite deep and the rest of the Atlantic will be competitive, but I like the makeup of the Manchester squad. I think they should finish in the top four in the conference as well.
Does this team have the talent level to go deep into the Calder Cup Playoffs?
JS: The fact that 4 Stanley Cup champions are skating on a nightly basis for Manchester certainly gives them the potential to go deep. These guys have come back to Manchester enlightened about so many things, including how to carry yourself like a champion and how to win games on the ice. The Monarchs are a veteran and deep team, so expect them to be dangerous come playoff time.
IC: Again, injuries and call-ups can always monkey wrench any team, but if this current roster is close to what the Monarchs put on the ice come postseason time I would think they have a solid chance to make some noise deep into the playoffs. It’s a young team but with veterans who are battle-tested and can lead the way.
How does the experience of players who were a part of the Kings’ Stanley Cup Final run last spring help the younger players on the Monarchs roster?
JS: They have come to Manchester with an understanding of how much work and desire it takes to succeed. Their professionalism is rubbing off on the younger players.
IC: I think their value comes more from the mental aspect than anything else. In other words, young players see that Jordan Nolan and Dwight King got called up mid-season and got to raise the Stanley Cup and they realize that they themselves are that close. Hard work and consistent play will get them there and playing alongside Nolan, King and Slava Voynov and Andrei Loktionov in Manchester can only help the young guys.
Assistant Coach Freddy Meyer was hired over the summer to work with Head Coach Mark Morris. What’s your initial impression of the new coach and how is he fitting in?
JS: Love him. Like the players, he is learning the new system that Darryl Sutter is implementing, so there is a learning curve. He has been terrific with the players, keeping it light. In particular, the defensemen are going to benefit from his knowledge, being a former NHL blue-liner.
IC: I think Freddy was a good choice from what I have seen so far. He’s played the game at the NHL level and that built-in respect goes a long way with young players. He also seems to have a good rapport with the team and is eager to learn the coaching ropes.
How excited were Monarchs fans to see Luc Robitaille with the Stanley Cup in Manchester?
JS: The event was not really advertised, yet several thousand fans showed up for the event. These are smart hockey fans, so they know all about Luc.
IC: Luc himself told me how surprised he was at the reaction not only to the Cup, but to his appearance as well. Fans chanted “Luuuuuc” and were very interested in taking photos with him and speaking with him. Luc seemed genuinely impressed with the reception he got in Manchester. The fans around here know the game and even though Robitaille was known more for his time in L.A. and thus Bruins fans didn’t see him play much, they still know hockey royalty when it rolls into town.
Are Monarchs fans full of pride because they know that 14 former Monarchs made up the Kings 2012 Stanley Cup championship roster?
JS: Absolutely. The social media sights were going crazy throughout the playoffs. Our fans want the players to succeed in the NHL.
IC: That was definitely evident leading up to the Cup visit and has maintained through the season. You see a lot of fans sporting brand new Kings jerseys with former Monarchs names. And not just the more recent call-ups like King and Nolan, but back to Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown. It seems to have clicked with many fans that not only are you seeing future NHL players here in Manchester, but potential Cup winners.
How would you describe the level of play in the AHL to someone who is a hockey fan but hasn’t seen the Monarchs in action?
JS: Typically we describe it as the AAA of hockey, to borrow from baseball again. But this year, with more NHL players in the AHL arenas, the play is even better then usual. These players have a real opportunity to gauge their progress: if they can play well during the lockout, they know they can contribute in the NHL.
IC: The speed drop-off, while noticeable to players on the ice, is not so evident to fans watching the game. That means you’re going to see a quick brand of hockey. The level of play is more uneven, due to the disparity in talent between top-line AHL guys and their fourth line counterparts. But that also means the star players are more noticeable when they have the puck on their stick. One of the greatest things about minor league hockey is that you have guys working hard to make the next level so the effort is always there. And of course, the AHL has enough fights to keep fans of the fisticuffs happy.
Jamie Staton is the Sports Director and Weekday Sports Anchor at WMUR-TV in Manchester, New Hampshire. He has covered three Super Bowls, two World Series, two NBA Finals, and the Stanley Cup Final. He also hosts events like the Miss NH Scholarship Program, NH Legends of Hockey Banquet, and the Ace Bailey Golf Tournament.
Ian Clark covers Pro Hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News, while his Pop Culture Club appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.
MONARCHS WEEK 3 RECAP
The Manchester Monarchs – the American Hockey League affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings – improved to 5-1-0-0 on the season with a pair of home game victories at the Verizon Wireless Arena this past weekend. Overall, the Monarchs have won three straight games and they lead the AHL’s Atlantic Division with 10 points.
The Monarchs picked up their fifth win on Sunday as goalie Martin Jones posted 29 saves in a 4-0 victory over the Binghamton Senators. Brandon Kozun, Andy Andreoff, Andrei Loktionov and Tyler Toffoli all scored for Manchester.
“We played with a lot of energy in the early going and that paid dividends for us,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “I thought (Martin) Jones was stellar. He made a lot of tough saves look easy again and he erased opportunities that they had.”
The Monarchs opened the weekend with a big 5-1 win over the Worcester Sharks on Saturday. David Kolomatis, Kozun, Marc-Andre Cliche, Slava Voynov and Andreoff all scored for the Monarchs, who also received a big performance in net from Jones. He stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faced.
The Monarchs, who have scored at least one power play goal in each of their six games this season, rank second in the AHL with a 32 percent success rate on the power play (8-for-25). Kozun extended his team-leading point streak to six games (2-6=8) with a goal and an assist in Sunday’s win.
Kozun leads the Monarchs with eight points, and he’s followed closely by Kolomatis (3-3=6) and Loktionov (3-3=6). Toffoli has five points (3-2=5) and he leads the team with 21 shots on goal. Kozun, Loktionov and Andrew Campbell share the team lead with plus-4 ratings and Jones has all five wins.
The Monarchs return to action against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday, November 2.