When Greg Cronin was tapped as the man for the job to coach the Colorado Eagles when the team was made the AHL affiliate to the Avalanche in 2018, he brought with him a number of things.
First and foremost, experience.
Cronin, perhaps a bit of a defensive specialist, says he’s learned under—and alongside—such coaching talent like Randy Carlyle, a former Norris winner, while in Toronto; and Jack Capuano and Mike Milbury, two more former D-men-turned-coaches, while an assistant in New York.
“When I came in here, I took pieces from those people I’ve coached with all the way back,” Cronin told Colorado Hockey Now. “I think we’ve taken those ways and I think that we’ve streamlined them into principles, fundamental athletic principles that a defenseman has to build into his game habitually to be a good defender.”
He also brought with him the tools necessary to forge responsible, successful players.
Those fundamentals and details are one of the reasons why the Colorado Eagles have been one of the better defensive units in the American League since Cronin took the helm (his team is also currently the best PK unit in the AHL).
“We have these developmental practices that allow players to get more reps in those, and I think we do some innovative things that promote awareness from our defenseman that come in here,” Cronin added.
The Avalanche have found a lot of success from their call-up D-men this season. In total, 15 different defensemen have dressed in an NHL game for the Avs this year, one shy of the franchise record. Over half of them have come from the Cronin’s club or have spent significant time in the Eagles system at some point.