Greg Cronin speaks to reporters during a press conference announcing him as the new head coach of the Anaheim Ducks in Anaheim, Calif., Monday. Ashley Landis/Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Greg Cronin spent 36 years coaching at nearly every level of hockey before he finally got his first chance to be an NHL head coach.

He believes the struggling but talented Anaheim Ducks will be worth that extraordinary wait.

General Manager Pat Verbeek hired the 60-year-old Cronin on Monday to lead the Ducks’ rebuilding effort out of the worst five-year stretch in franchise history. Cronin is a former NHL assistant and a former head coach in both the AHL and at Northeastern, earning widespread praise for teaching strong principles and leading young players.

Cronin played at Colby College from 1982-1986. He later served as an assistant coach at the University of Maine, serving as the interim coach during Shawn Walsh’s suspension for NCAA violations from Dec. 1995 to Dec. 1996.

For Cronin, who spent the past five seasons leading the Colorado Avalanche’s successful AHL affiliate, the Ducks’ combination of bountiful young talent and a patient organization are ideal – and as a surfer and long-distance runner, he should fit into Orange County’s lifestyle as well.

“I think this is right (in) my wheelhouse as a coach,” Cronin said during a news conference at Honda Center. “I’ve worked my tail off to get to this point, and I can’t emphasize enough how happy I am to be here.”


Cronin has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in two stints with the New York Islanders. The Massachusetts native with a pronounced Boston accent also played an important role in the creation of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in the late 1990s.

When Cronin’s hiring became public, he began receiving texts from players he had helped across his 3 1/2 decades in the profession all the way back to the 1980s at the University of Maine, where he coached Ducks Hall of Famer Paul Kariya. Cronin has relationships at every level of hockey, and his knowledge and experience were just some of the reasons Verbeek called him “a tremendous fit” to take over a rebuilding team.

“I personally think this has been long overdue for (Cronin),” Verbeek said. “He brings a passion and an energy that is contagious. I was looking for someone that could develop a culture with high standards, work ethic and accountability. Greg has an outstanding track record in those areas.”

Cronin replaces Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn’t renewed in April after the Ducks finished their fourth consecutive losing season of his tenure. Anaheim finished last season in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12 and got the second overall pick in the draft lottery.

Cronin knows he’s starting near the bottom, but his experience and preparation make him confident it will work.

“There are certain things that are very doable,” Cronin said. “Everybody is going to compete at an extraordinary level. That’s kind of my mantra. And then you’ve always got to attach your compete level to your brain. You’ve got to be smart about how you do it.”


Just how long has Cronin been in this game? He briefly coached Eakins with the Islanders, and then he coached current Ducks center Ryan Strome during his second stint as an assistant on Long Island 15 years later.

But Cronin only got his first interview for an NHL head coaching job last year with his hometown Boston Bruins. He immediately wowed Verbeek in their first conversation last month, a scheduled two-hour interview that lasted five hours.

“I was looking for both a teacher and a coach,” Verbeek said. “Old-school principles, but new-school methods of teaching.”

Among several mentors and influences on his coaching style, Cronin cited his former Isles bosses, Mike Milbury and Butch Goring, along with Randy Carlyle, the longtime Ducks head coach who employed Cronin with the Maple Leafs.

Cronin said Milbury’s no-nonsense style influenced his own dealings with players. He recalls a formative moment in the cavernous hallways under old Nassau Coliseum when Milbury confronted him about his worries over delivering tough instruction to a player.

“He brought me in the doorway and said, ‘If you’re going to sugarcoat a message, then just get in your car and drive right back to Boston,’ ” Cronin recalled. “That hit me right between the eyes. He followed up with: ‘It doesn’t matter where you came from or how old you are. Players want to know you care about them, you’re honest, and you’re going to give them a positive message.’ That stuck with me. Mike would say all the time, ‘Get into a player’s soul.’ ”


Cronin is taking over a franchise near its nadir, but with a relatively promising future.

The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They’ve missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and Anaheim was the NHL’s worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

But Anaheim also is loaded with young talent, with the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft joining one of the NHL’s best farm systems. The Ducks’ foundation includes playmaking center Trevor Zegras, two-time All-Star Troy Terry and promising forward Mason McTavish, along with several additional prospects expected to become solid NHL players.

While Cronin said he hasn’t extensively evaluated the Ducks’ talent base, he referred to Terry, Zegras and McTavish as the “pillars” of the new team.

Since making his NHL debut in 2020-21, the forward has 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) in 123 NHL games.

CANADIENS: Cole Caufield picked up the phone and called his mother after agreeing to a lucrative extension with the Montreal Canadiens.


She couldn’t answer because she was busy at work, teaching. But once she called him back, the two shared a moment over the amount of money that’s not just life-changing for Caufield, but for his family, too.

“She was excited, started crying on the phone. It’s really so special for me and my family,” he said during a video call with reporters. “They couldn’t be more proud, and I couldn’t be more thankful for what they’ve done.

“I’m just … I’m at a loss for words sometimes just thinking about it.”

The Canadiens signed Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8 million contract extension, completing a key piece of offseason business.

Caufield, who said he couldn’t even have dreamed of a number such as that as a kid, wanted to sign long term instead of opting for a bridge deal both to have his family “set for a while” and because of how much he loves playing in Montreal.

“The way this organization is going, the plan that’s intact, all that stuff, it makes a lot of sense,” he said. “I love being there, (it’s my) second home, first home, whatever you want to call it for me. I think it puts my family in a good place as well, all those things that kind of went into this final number and years.


“I’m very excited and very lucky to be a part of the Montreal Canadiens for a long time.”

The deal will pay the 22-year-old winger an average annual value of $7.85 million through the 2030-31 season. It’s the second-richest contract for a forward in Canadiens history, trailing captain Nick Suzuki’s eight-year pact by $200,000.

Caufield said he and the team understood that Suzuki would remain the highest-paid forward on the team.

“I mean, that’s our guy, that’s our leader,” said Caufield. “I think everyone around knows that, and (I) still have a lot of money, so I’m not complaining about anything.

“I’m excited and proud to be a part of this, and to do it with him along the way will be pretty special.”

With Suzuki signed through 2029-30, Montreal has two franchise cornerstones locked up for the foreseeable future.

Caufield didn’t have any spectacular plans regarding how he’ll celebrate his new contract.

“I had a workout and skate this morning, so kind of just, maybe take a nap later,” he said.

Caufield scored 26 goals and added 10 assists in 46 games in 2022-23, tying Suzuki for the team lead in goals despite undergoing season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in February.

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