As our fine AHL writers at The Sin Bin have been putting out their team specific previews for Hershey, Springfield, and Ontario, I figured I’d take a bit of a detour from that and give out some storylines that I’ll be following throughout the season and you should, too.

The Possibility of a Repeat: It’s the obvious question, but it has been six seasons since the AHL has had a repeat Calder Cup champion (Hershey in 2009 and 2010). Are the Cleveland Monsters the team to break that streak?? One would certainly think that they are in the position to do so with the core of their roster coming back for another kick at the can. While Oliver Bjorkstrand is up with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the time being; Anton Forsberg, Sonny Milano, TJ Tynan, and Ryan Craig are some familiar names who will be back in the Monsters line-up. Sure, Forsberg, Milano, and possibly Bjorkstrand may be shuttle players, the Monsters have the depth to withstand their top producers being called up with Alex Broadhurst, Tynan, and Joonas Korpisalo (when he gets healthy) being able to shoulder the load in the meantime. History may not be kind to the Monsters’ chances, but John Madden being behind the bench could give them a new direction that teams may not expect.

New Season, New Bosses: Speaking of Madden, he was one of the changes that happens with the AHL bench bosses. There were 12 coaching changes, including Madden’s, this off-season. Dan Lambert in Rochester, Benoit Groulx in Syracuse, Ulf Samuelsson in Charlotte, Kurt Kleinendorst back in Binghamton, Pascal Vincent in Manitoba, Craig Berube in Chicago, and Derek Lalonde in Iowa to name more than half. There’s a ton of experience from the NHL and AHL, along with plenty of experience from the junior level and ECHL to help holster the development of these young players moving forward.

New Look, New Result in Iowa??: In their three seasons of existence, the Iowa Wild have finished last in the Western Conference. The past two seasons, they have finished last in the entire AHL. With the hiring of Derek Lalonde, the hope is that the Wild can climb out of the cellar and make some noise in the Western Conference. They added veteran Pat Cannone from the Chicago Wolves, Sam Anas and Alex Tuch are coming in after finishing their NCAA careers, while Jordan Schroeder could signal the end of his shuttling days, but would give Iowa a big pop offensively. But with that offense, the defense needs to be as sharp. Maxime Fortunus is the stalwart on the blueline, but will need to put that same work ethic into the otherwise inexperienced defensive corp in Iowa that has a total of 240 games of AHL experience total amongst the six other defensemen. Fortunus himself has 740 total games of experience in the AHL over 12 seasons.

Youth in Bridgeport: Despite getting off to a hot start last year, the injury to Joe Whitney kind of put the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on a skid and not able to compensate for his offensive prowess later into the season. While they did get to the playoffs, they went out in the first round. This season, the hope is that the two highly touted Islanders’ prospects in Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle will be the two guys who can keep the Sound Tigers offense going, while also showing what they can do in the pro game. The trials and tribulations of Josh Ho-Sang have been documented ad nauseum, but it seemed at this year’s camp; Ho-Sang came into it with a better demeanor and better attitude, which is something he has been knocked about not only from last year’s alarm clock incident, but throughout his junior career. With Dal Colle, he only played three regular season and three post-season games, not factoring in any scoring, but all signs point to him adjusting quickly– as he did after his first taste of OHL hockey– and getting back to a better than point-per-game form as he did in major juniors.

Icing and Fighting: Two new rule changes have been put into place and now it’s a chance for the NHL and hockey viewing public to see if they will work to be used at a higher level. The first rule is no time-outs after icing the puck for the offending team, which is great because now you really have to have your guys work on a breakout to get out of the zone if they’re tired and you can’t kill the momentum of the game as many have been known to do in the past. The rule that most talked about is the new fighting rules. The first one is that any fight that happens directly after a face-off will give both combatants a game misconduct, which many believe will kill any staged fight out there. The other rule is that at 10 fighting majors, the player will receive a one-game suspension from that point until the 13th fighting major. At the 14th fighting major and beyond, it turns into an automatic two-game suspension. In 2015-16, 22 players had 10 or more fighting majors, while eight of those 22 players had 14 or more fighting majors. Toronto Marlies’ Rich Clune, who had 10 fighting majors last season, tweeted (later deleting it) saying, “Fighting isn’t done, just guys who suck are.” It will remain to be seen if it totally curbs the number of fighting majors, but it will take the carnival aspect out of fighting rather than the spontaneous emotion that can come from the heat of battle.

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