Tony's Take: Week 1
MONSTERS HEAD EAST FOR 2018-19
With the championship hardware recently doled out at both the NHL and AHL levels, the dog days of the calendar hockey-wise are right around the corner. For Monsters fans, perhaps the most notable development of the summer to date was the AHL’s recent announcement that Cleveland would be moving to the Eastern Conference’s North Division for the 2018-19 season.
The change presents a number of exciting opportunities for the Monsters both on and off the ice. Gone from Cleveland’s schedule will be a pair of former Central Division rivals (Iowa and Manitoba), but the Monsters will return to head-to-head action vs. their former division foes, the Charlotte Checkers, and will maintain their rivalries vs. the Chicago Wolves, Grand Rapids Griffins, Milwaukee Admirals, and Rockford IceHogs. Additionally, Cleveland will extend their all-time series vs. the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Rochester Americans, Syracuse Crunch, Toronto Marlies, and Utica Comets, will face the Hershey Bears for the first time since the 2016 Calder Cup Final, and will drop the puck against four opponents for the first time in franchise history (Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Belleville Senators, Binghamton Devils, and Laval Rocket). Also out in 2017, sought-after warm-weather treks to Texas and California!
In terms of travel, a move to a conference in which teams are grouped more closely geographically will likely mean fewer hours spent in the airport for Monsters players and staffers, as the team will utilize bussing more frequently next season to hop efficiently between tightly concentrated North Division locales.
A brief word of congratulations to the newly-crowned Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals, and the team they vanquished in five games, the Vegas Golden Knights. Both teams provided a hugely entertaining final that lived up to the phenomenal playoff year we were all fortunate enough to witness. What Vegas achieved in their first season cannot be overstated and the impact that organization has had on its city in its inaugural campaign has been captivating to watch, but something about watching a Hall of Fame player like Alex Ovechkin hoist the Cup for the first time is thrilling to a lifelong hockey fan like me. In the AHL, it was a classic, seven-game Calder Cup Final that saw the mighty Toronto Marlies claim the Cup on home ice despite a furious challenge from the underdog Texas Stars. Congratulations to both teams on a memorable series and playoff run.
Feel free to tweet me mailbag questions throughout the summer months @TonyBrownPxP using the hashtag #TonysTake. We’ll answer two questions per week and if your question is selected, you’ll be entered into a monthly drawing for cool Monsters prizes!