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May 06. 2013 10:16PM

Allen Lessels' On Hockey: Kings plan for Morris' return to Monarchs


Manchester Monarchs' Jordan Weal carries his equipment after cleaning out his locker at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Monday. The Monarchs wrapped up their season over the weekend, losing to Springfield in the AHL Eastern quarterfinals. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- THE LOS ANGELES KINGS want Mark Morris back as coach of the Manchester Monarchs.

Morris likes the idea of returning for an eighth season as bench boss of the American Hockey League team.

Now it's a matter of the two sides getting together and working out a deal.

"I expect Mark to be back, assuming he wants to come back," said Ron Hextall, the Monarchs general manager and Kings assistant GM on Monday afternoon from Los Angeles. "We don't have a signed contract, but my plan is to have him back. I'll work on that this week and hopefully we'll get something done."

The Monarchs' season ended with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Springfield Falcons in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Saturday night. The Falcons won the series three games to one.

Morris and his staff finished with exit interviews with the players by about noon on Monday.

He tended to some other duties and in the late afternoon was cleaning out his apartment and preparing to head to his home on an island in the St. Lawrence River, just outside Massena, N.Y.

Morris said he had not talked to Hextall since the season ended and that it was premature to talk about his status with the Monarchs going forward. His present contract expires at the end of June.

"I think it's probably best to talk to Ron first," Morris said. "I know he's in the thick of the playoffs and that's probably the last thing on his mind."

The Kings played St. Louis on Monday night in Los Angeles in Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup series. The Blues held a two-games-to-one series lead going into Monday night.

"I think it's premature and it's hard to make any comment," Morris said. "But obviously Manchester is pretty near and dear to my heart. It's been good to me."

There's much to like about the Monarchs and Manchester, he said.

"Manchester's a great place to live," he said. "We play in a wonderful facility. I really love the city. The Monarchs organization has been great and treated me with a lot of respect. This has become a second home for me."

There's much to like about the job Morris and his staff have done developing players, said Hextall. He added that he felt Freddy Meyer, the first-year assistant and native of Sanbornville, fit in nicely and hopes he returns to the Monarchs as well.

"Mark's done a real good job," Hextall said. "I look at a coach and always judge a coach by, does he get the most out of his players? Year after year, Mark has gotten the most out of what we've given him. Everyone knows our philosophy is to have young players and develop young players. You look at our (Stanley Cup) championship team last year. We had 14 players who spent significant time in Manchester. That speaks volumes about results."

Hextall cited other examples and talked about the trials - including injuries and callups and losing veterans Richard Clune and Thomas Hickey to the waiver draft - that Morris and the Monarchs endured this season.

He noted, too, the highly productive young line of rookies Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson teamed with second-year player Linden Vey.

"Not too many teams have two first-year guys and a second-year guy as their top line," Hextall said. "They got checked every night. They really did a good job. Linden Vey absolutely grew a ton from the year before in a lot of areas he needed to grow, playing in traffic, playing the defensive game. All three of them did a really good job."

Toffoli was called up to Los Angeles in early March and came back to Manchester for a few games late and helped the Monarchs in their playoff push, but then went back to the Kings.

Led by workhorse goalie Martin Jones, who was recalled to join the Kings on Monday along with fellow goalie Jean-Francois Berube of the ECHL's Ontario Reign, the Monarchs made a late run to get into the playoffs.

There, as the No. 7 seed, they gave No. 2 Springfield all it could handle. Each of Manchester's three losses came in overtime.

Hextall spent a chunk of time around the team near the end of the season as it rallied into the playoffs.

"Let's face it, with three weeks left, people didn't think they'd make the playoffs," Hextall said. "There was a lot of growth on that team. A lot of good things happened in Manchester. A lot of really, really good things."

In the end, the Monarchs went to the playoffs for the fourth straight year and sixth time in seven years under Morris.

If they can work out the details, Morris will be back and try to make it five straight and seven of eight starting in October.

alessels@unionleader.com


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