Just a few weeks ago, David Quinn
figured life couldn't get much better after the Boston University squad that he worked for as an associate head coach won the NCAA championship.
A couple friends proved him wrong. Specifically, Colorado Assistant GM Craig Billington
and new Avalanche coach Joe Sacco.
"I was absolutely ready to go back to BU," Quinn said. "The more success you are associated with, the more opportunity you get. If you told me a month ago I'd be head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League, I'd have told you you are crazy."
And yet, here sits Quinn in his first pro head-coaching role, running the Monsters. Quinn, 42, was named the replacement for Sacco in that spot after spending the last five seasons as associate coach of the Terriers.
Sacco and Quinn have been friends ever since they skated together at BU. Colorado has three draft picks now playing at that school, so Quinn struck up a relationship with Billington via that common interest. When the Monsters needed a new coach, tapping Quinn was like reaching out to a family member.
"Joe obviously had nothing but good things to say about his two years here. It's an American Hockey League team run like an NBA or NHL team," Quinn said of Lake Erie, which is owned and operated by the Cavaliers. "I have a lot of friends who are head coaches at the AHL level. They said it was the best job they ever had."
Quinn comes to the job with just about as weighty an apprenticeship as possible. His experience with young players includes two seasons (2002-04) as head coach of the U.S. National Under-17 Team within USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and six seasons (1996-2002) as the top assistant coach for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
"I've always enjoyed helping players develop. To me, hockey is hockey," he said. "Most of these players I'm coaching (at Lake Erie) will be the same age as the college guys."
If Quinn needs to further dip into a well of experience, his own playing career covers the span from hero to heartache. A standout defenseman during his three-year career at BU, Quinn was the Minnesota North Stars’ first selection, 13th overall, in the 1984 Entry Draft.
But prior to his senior season, Quinn was diagnosed with a blood disorder called Christmas Disease - a form of hemophilia - that eventually forced him to retire from the game. Medication controls the ailment.
"I've moved past that. I wouldn't trade anything in at all," Quinn said. "Not everything is going to happen the way you think it's going to happen. The way you handle adversity is going to go a long way toward determining if they (players) are going to have an NHL career."
Meyer embracing change
-- News in Fox Valley, Saskatchewan (pop: 300), travels with the speed of a slap shot.
Native Stefan Meyer
was working out in Medicine Hat, Alberta, about an hour away, last week when he got word that he was traded from the Florida organization to Phoenix. By the time he drove home, just about everyone in Fox Valley had heard about the deal.
"It wasn't even news anymore," Meyer said. "I didn't even get, 'What do you think?' It's basically, 'Congratulations.'"
Fox Valley knows its own, and in this case Meyer's supporters quickly grasped the value of a fresh start for him.
"Joe (Sacco) obviously had nothing but good things to say about his two years here. It's an American Hockey League team run like an NBA or NHL team. I have a lot of friends who are head coaches at the AHL level. They said it was the best job they ever had."
-- David Quinn, on coaching the Lake Erie Monsters
Originally selected by Florida in the second round of the 2003 Entry Draft, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Meyer was inching his way toward solid power-forward status. He recorded 18 goals and 22 assists 65 games with Rochester last season, and in 266 career AHL games with the Amerks he posted 64-66 with 363 PIM. His only NHL look-see was four games with the Panthers during the 2007-08 campaign.
Meyer, 23, said he didn't necessarily ask Florida for a change, but made it clear he'd at least like a real shot. He'll get it, but with Phoenix instead of the Panthers.
"It's tough leaving a team you've been accustomed to. The Florida Panthers
showed a lot of class in giving me the chance to go somewhere else," he said. "Phoenix showed some faith that I might become a hockey player someday. With change, sometimes confidence and new abilities come about. My only concern is myself right now, that I give myself a chance."
Coaching changes almost everywhere
-- The shakeup in Minnesota apparently isn't going to cause any rumblings in Houston.
Aeros coach Kevin Constantine
was understandably a mite concerned that the ushering in of the Chuck Fletcher era up top might bring with it a new look on the farm team. But after talking with the new Wild GM, Constantine came away both secure in his job and encouraged about the future.
"When there's a new general manager, there's always a question how he wants you to run things, or if he even wants you," Constantine said. "He was very supportive of the job we did and mentioned that he wanted our staff back. With change of a general manager, there is always change throughout the organization. Whether there's a slight shift in philosophy or a dramatic shift, I haven't had enough conversation with Chuck to know how that's going."
While it's status quo in Houston, Bob Woods is on the move in the Washington organization. Less than two weeks after taking the Bears to the Calder Cup, Woods has been promoted to assistant coach of the Capitals. He'll again work with bench boss Bruce Boudreau
, who was in charge in Hershey when Woods was an assistant there. The two teamed to win a Calder Cup in 2006.
"It's awesome. We complement each other well," Woods said.
In Peoria, head coach Davis Payne
and assistant Brent Thompson
got new deals from St. Louis that lock them up through the 2010-11 season.
"It was a great learning experience," Payne said of his first year running the Rivermen. "The biggest thing I take from it is make sure you are making progress every day. Make sure you are using each day for what it can bring you."
In other coaching news, Edmonton announced that Rob Daum will return as head coach in Springfield. Daum took over for Jeff Truitt on Feb. 10 and guided the Falcons for the final 30 games of the season.
And Calgary announced that Ryan McGill
will be an assistant coach with the Flames. McGill heads to Calgary after seven seasons as an AHL head coach, including the last four seasons with the Flames' top affiliates in Quad City and Omaha.
Around the AHL
-- After a successful first trip to parent team city Buffalo last season, the Portland Pirates are doubling their fun with two games at HSBC Arena in 2009-10. Last season, the Pirates hosted the Albany River Rats in front of 11,144, the largest crowd to ever witness a Pirates home game. ... Manitoba announced that assistant coach Jay Wells
will be leaving his position at the end of his contract on June 30. Wells joined Scott Arniel
and Rick St. Croix behind the bench to fill the assistant coaching position for the 2008-09 season after Brad Berry
was forced to resign due to family issues. ... The Washington Capitals
have re-signed Hershey left wing Quintin Laing
to a one-year contract. Laing missed more than two months with his spleen injury, but he returned to the Bears during the Calder Cup playoffs and had 2 goals and 2 assists in nine games. ... The Marlies have exercised the club options on the AHL contracts of defensemen Joey Ryan and Josh Engel
for the 2009-10 season. Ryan, 21, appeared in 36 games with the team last season, collecting 12 points. Engel, 24, appeared in 28 games, notching 1 goal and 4 assists. ... According to the Connecticut Post, Bridgeport forward Jeremy Colliton
has signed with Rogle BK in Angelholm, Sweden, for the 2009-10 season.