Monarchs Locked In After Lockout
The lockout seems all but over. The National Hockey League season has been saved and soon it will be back to business as usual. That is easier said than done for members of the American Hockey League who played almost half a season before both sides could come to an agreement. Now it seems anything could happen and the Manchester Monarchs locker room is no exception.
For the first half of the season, the Monarchs, much like the rest of the AHL had bolstered their roster with a few NHL players as a result of the NHL lockout. Throughout the three-plus month lockout, there was hope that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement would be agreed upon and the players would rejoin their NHL teams to play the remainder of the season. The constant state of “limbo” for players, coaches, owners and fans came to a close this past week with the announcement of the framework for a new CBA deal agreed upon.
“It’s a bit of a relief that things will return to normal or as we had projected them to go,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “We’ve had an opportunity to see the guys that returned from the National Hockey League and how they compare with the guys here that are projected to be with the Monarchs to make some evaluations. At the same time, there are a lot of different personnel and different combinations that we tried as we were balancing our development while trying to win hockey games.”
Going forward, Morris knows that there is a lot that still needs to be done and that it is more important now than ever with the impending roster changes that result with an active NHL season and players being recalled.
“I think that it was pretty apparent throughout the first part of the season that we need to get better defensively and we need to find ways to close out games that we play well in and find ways to be a little more consistent defensively,” said Morris. “Teaching the defensive aspect of the game is usually the last hurdle for most player and we still have some work to do in that area so we will continue to teach and use situations as part of learning curve.”
Like Morris, the consensus among the veteran players is to not let any of the lockout noise affect the team going forward. Monarchs veteran left wing Richard Clune has learned to block out any distractions to try and help focus on what is best for the team and the lockout is no exception.
“I want to be more consistent with my own game,” said Clune. “I want to play well and push this team into the playoffs and the lockout being over doesn’t really change that mindset.”
The veterans are not the only Monarchs who will be dealing with the end of the lockout approaching. Rookies, like Manchester’s Tanner Pearson, are being forced to re-adjust just months after being drafted 30th overall in the first-round by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft last June.
“You know, I was kind of disappointed (that there was no training camp in Los Angeles),” said Pearson. “I’ll use that to push me going forward. I don’t want to set too many expectations but I have used this to help me play better and I’ll do the same in the future.”
Playing with something to prove has worked for the rookie as he is one of the top producers for Manchester through the first 35 games. Pearson has appeared in 34 of the team’s first 35 games and is tied for 12th among AHL rookies with 22 points (7-15=22).
Despite his success thus far, the rookie left wing is happy that there will finally be an NHL season but he does not plan on letting it affect his play at all.
“I think it’s really good that they came through with a deal,” said Pearson. “I know a lot of people have been waiting for it to happen but we are going to keep taking it game by game (here in Manchester).”
One thing is for certain, whether it is a coach, a veteran or a rookie, all the Monarchs are locked in after the lockout.