Wolves Wednesday: New Kids on the Block

Craig MacTavish, the (finally official) new coach for the Wolves. (Photo: the jerk/flickr)

I’m sure you’re wondering where I’ve been all summer and what this new title is. On the former I will say that I have been working and mourning and generally counting down the days for hockey to come back. As for the latter, this is just one of the changes we’re making around Runs On Duncan to streamline our design and provide consistency in your reading experience. So as Kat mentioned in her awesome AHL 101 post earlier today, you will now be having Wolves Wednesday and IceHogs Thursday to follow Steel Monday and Express Tuesday—and the occasional special presentation for Prospects Friday in which I stalk, er, keep track of the Hawks babies I’m hoping will come up the ranks soon.

So, then, let’s get down to business on our belated Wolves Wednesday, which was postponed out of respect after yesterday’s tragedy in Yaroslavl.

The Wolves have undergone a lot of changes this past summer, most of which have been related to the change of affiliation. The players whose contracts were with the former Thrashers (now Jets) moved to their new AHL affiliate, the former Moose (now IceCaps). Some others, faced with the prospect of having a whole-new team, decided to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Instead of dwelling on the losses, however, let’s take a look at some of the additions to the team:

Coach Craig MacTavish

This appointment was as unsurprising as the new affiliation was—and it took just as long to materialize officially. MacTavish came to the team after spending two years working as an analyst for TSN, bringing 11 years of NHL coaching experience including a trip to the Finals with the Oilers in 2006. The former Oilers bench boss will bring the experience of keeping a team together into the postseason, and he will also be able to keep pushing the players to compete and achieve at a high level—which, coupled with the Wolves’ excellent management and stellar track record, should continue the tradition of success at the Allstate Arena. MacTavish became the eighth coach in Wolves history upon replacing Don Lever, whose contract was not renewed at the end of the season.

Assistant Coach Karl Taylor

After 7 years of college hockey coaching and 6 more in the ECHL, Karl Taylor was appointed assistant coach for the Wolves. The past three seasons have seen him as both head coach and director of hockey operations for the ECHL’s Ontario Reign, positions he held since the team’s inaugural season—in which Taylor led them to the Pacific Division championship. Before that, he spent three seasons as bench boss with the ECHL’s Reading Royals in his head coaching debut. His numbers speak for themselves, as does the amount of responsibility that he has been shouldering over the past few years. He will definitely be a valuable tool for Coach MacTavish to make use of as the season goes on.

Tim Miller

While he is not technically new, Miller spent a lot of time with the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators last season, and is looking to spend to more time with the big team this season now that the roster is being rebuilt. He skated in 33 games with the Wolves during his rookie year, tallying a total of 20 points and 11 goals and therefore ranking second among first-year pros on the team in both categories. The stats from his time at the University of Michigan show him to be a physical forward who is not afraid of the penalty box, and his penalty minutes with the Gladiators confirm this. Hopefully he will bring a physical, aggressive spark to the new Wolves team.

Michael Davies

Former Badger Davies was signed this summer in a very similar situation to Tim Miller’s (with whom he shared second place in points among rookies). His stats do not reflect as many goals, a fact which belies Davies’ willingness to fight for the puck and be proactive when on the ice. His familiarity with Wolves management and with other players such as Miller should be advantageous for him as he tries to make a name for himself and remain with the AHL team for most of, if not all, the season.

J.P. Testwuide

(That’s TEHST-wud, by the way, and not to be confused with his apparent brother, right winger Mike Testwuide, who also played for the Phantoms). Defenseman Testwuide was acquired from the Phantoms after the end of his second professional season, in which he posted 5 points and 56 penalty minutes. His rookie season, during which he played with the Houston Aeros, saw him tally 8 points and 111 penalty minutes—making him 11th among all AHL rookies and second for the Aeros. His stats show growth in discipline, especially when it comes to reducing penalties and increasing blocked shots, so he should be a solid addition to the Wolves’ steadily growing blue line.

Aside from these signings, Nolam Baumgartner (potential captain) and Kevin Doell were both signed this summer. (You can find my post about both of those signings here.) The Wolves also announced their training camp, which will take place on September 26 and will kick-off their three-game preseason.

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