For the second year in a row, Mitch Love has won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s most outstanding coach. The Calgary Wranglers bench boss led his team to a 51-17-4 record, blending a dynamic offensive attack with a smothering defensive structure. He is just the third coach to win the award in consecutive seasons (Bill Dineen and Robbie Ftorek are the others).
Overall, Love has a 96-33-11 record through his first two years behind an AHL bench. His meteoric rise through the ranks included just three years as head coach of the Saskatoon Blades before jumping to the AHL level, and now puts him on a trajectory toward NHL duties in the near future. With uncertainty surrounding the future of the Flames, though, it’s unclear if that will eventually come in Calgary. When the NHL squad parted ways with general manager Brad Treliving recently, reports indicated that head coach Darryl Sutter’s job was safe.
As teams around the league search for new candidates in the coming years, you can bet that Love’s name will start to surface. Two incredible years in the AHL may not be a very long track record, but it is an impressive one. He is the first coach in league history to win the award in his first two seasons.
During his playing career, Love was a prototypical “tough guy,” racking up penalty minutes without any real offensive impact. In 278 regular season AHL games, he scored just six goals but registered 808 penalty minutes. Before that, he was one of the most feared competitors in the WHL, once recording more than 300 PIM in a single season.
While the performance of Dustin Wolf as the AHL’s most outstanding goaltender has certainly helped through his first two years, the relationship is symbiotic. Love’s system has taken a lot of stress off his netminders, as there is almost always someone in the face of an attacking player as soon as they get the puck. With the top seed secured, the Wranglers will wait to see who they play in the Pacific Division semifinals.