The Cleveland Monsters' perfect storm last spring culminated in the franchise's first-ever AHL championship.
Not only did they snap a 50-plus hockey championship drought in Cleveland, but the Monsters helped cultivate the partnership between them and the Blue Jackets in just the first year of their multi-year affiliation agreement. The Blue Jackets put several of their top prospects in Cleveland for development, and under coach Jared Bednar, did a little winning along the way.
And because of that, it's not too surprising what transpired.
Bednar left in August to become head coach of the Colorado Avalanche, reuniting with former Blue Jackets assistant GM Chris MacFarland, now in the same role with the Avalanche and having worked previously with Bednar in Cleveland.
Those key players in the Monsters' Calder Cup run (Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson, Zach Werenski, Lukas Sedlak) graduated to the NHL. Dillon Heatherington was traded at this year's NHL trade deadline. The Curtis McElhinney situation put the Monsters goalies in a constant rotation to and from Columbus, and basically, we're saying that it's been hard to gain some traction this year.
Cleveland got a big win over Milwaukee on Wednesday, closing the gap on a playoff spot but there's still plenty of work to do. The Monsters are fighting time here, with but 19 games remaining and 0.16 percentage points to make up on the eighth-place Iowa Wild and four games remaining against them. There's an opportunity here for the Monsters, but it's going to take their best.