Portland, ME – Fans of the Portland Pirates had their first chance to meet their new affiliate on Thursday as management of the Phoenix Coyotes were introduced at a meet-and-greet event held by the Pirates at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
It’s was also their first chance to hear what this version of the Pirates will be like on the ice.
“Our philosophy is simple,” said Phoenix General Manager Don Maloney. “We believe the best development is in a winning environment. The model that we aspire to is what’s happening in Hershey, Wilkes-Barre and even Boston/Providence. We want a very strong winning franchise on the ice where we put our best young players here. We think this is a great relationship and a great partner.”In the opening week of the free agency, the Coyotes were very aggressive in the marketplace signing several players including goaltender Curtis McElhinney and defensemen Nathan Oystrick and Dean Arsene.
Those moves sent a very strong message to the fan base that Phoenix takes their minor league team very seriously and one that proved to Pirates managing owner and CEO Brian Petrovek that he made the right decision.
“The way the ingredients of the team have been coming together, the pace of the work and the focus on the needs to deliver a new product have been incredibly impressive, but no surprise,” said Petrovek. “I think we saw that from the first time we all met in Portland.”
Joining Maloney at the meet-and-greet event were Coyotes assistant GM Brad Treliving and Pirates head coach Ray Edwards.
Maloney and Treliving spent the majority of the event emphasizing their desire to move to Portland despite the relationship in San Antonio being a positive one.“We couldn’t be happier,” said Maloney. “We’ve had a relationship in San Antonio for the last four or five seasons. I was in New York for 30 years and by the time I got this job I wanted to get to New England and the reason is this hockey county and a hockey mad area. When Brian first talked to us about the possibility of coming here we couldn’t have been more thrilled.”
Treliving feels confident in the center position in Portland, although, he admitted that there is still work to be done possible via the trade route to fill that position in Phoenix.
Where Treliving has turned his attention to in regard to Portland is on the wing where he is looking to add scoring and depth to the organization.
“We were pretty aggressive with our blueline right off the bat, and we’ve been pretty aggressive at goal,” Treliving said. “The wing position is our focus right now. If we can add a little more scoring, a little more character to the top-six. That’s the focus right now.”
For Edwards, who has been in Maine for a few days looking for a new home, is confident in the product on the ice this fall will be an exciting one and one the local fan base will enjoy.
“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to be here. We know the players will be. We plan to put an exciting, passionate hard-working group on the ice for ya’ll,” Edwards said with a chuckle admitting that he’s spent a little too much time in the south.
With opening day only 74 days away, Pirates fans are already anxiously waiting puck drop.
NOTES: The Pirates are in the market for a new assistant coach as Jeff Truitt is staying in the lonestar state after signing with the Dallas Stars. Truitt will be an assistant coach with the Stars AHL affiliate in Cedar Park, a suburb just north of Austin. Maloney indicated that they have several candidates under consideration including former assistant Eric Weinrich, who is still under contract with the Buffalo Sabres.
“Everybody speaks highly of Eric and the job he’s done,” said Maloney. “I know he’s still employed by the Sabres, but we’ll look at it. We have some names, but if he was interested we’d certainly 100% be interested in talking to him.”
Edwards also acknowledged that Weinrich was under contract, but said his knowledge and ability to work with the defensemen would fit perfectly with the Pirates need.
“His defensive capabilities would certainly fit with our program and what we are trying to do here,” said Edwards. “He’d be a perfect match and his record with defensemen is certainly an impressive one.”
The Pirates announced their list of opponents for the 2011-’12 season. All 76 regular season games will played against teams in the Eastern Conference. Of those 76-games, 42 games will be against the Atlantic Division with 12 games against Manchester and Worcester, 10 games versus Providence. Portland will return to a Canadian city for the first time since 2007 when the new AHL franchise in St. John’s, Newfoundland plays the Pirates eight times.
The Pirates will play Northeast Division opponents a total of 26 times with eight games against Springfield and Connecticut, six games against Bridgeport and four against Adirondack. The Pirates will finish out their schedule with games against teams in the East Division with four against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and two against Binghamton and Hershey. The complete 2011-12 American Hockey League game schedule is slated for release in early August.
The Pirates also announced their guaranteed dates for the upcoming season with home opener being on Oct. 15th. Other dates include Friday, October 28th; Saturday, November 19th; Friday, November 25th; Saturday, December 31st; and Saturday, January 21st.