In their second season of existence, the Denver Cutthroats are a force to be reckoned with in the Central Hockey League. If any of the players on the roster have issues with scoring, the need only turn to their two mentors behind the bench. Head coach Derek Armstrong and his assistant coach Brad Smyth both know a thing or two about putting pucks in the net. Both Armstrong and Smyth are graduates of the Ontario Hockey League.
Both Derek and Brad played the same three year span in the OHL from 1990-91 to 1992-93. Both were teammates and offensive threats with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League over a two year span, 1999-00 and 2000-01.
Derek played three years with the Sudbury Wolves from 1990-91 to 1992-93. His first year consisted of just two games. By his final year, he was Sudbury’s team leader with 44 goals and 62 assists for 106 points over 66 regular season games. Despite the numbers, it was a highly offensive time in the OHL and Armstrong did not break the league’s top ten in any category.
In the Robertson Cup playoffs in 1992-93, Derek scored nine and totalled 19 points over 14 games. The Wolves won their opening round over the Newmarket Royals in seven games. Newmarket outscored Sudbury 33-24 in the series, mostly on an 11-0 drubbing in game 6. Sudbury then came up against the Peterborough Petes in the second round and again pushed the series to the full seven games. This time, the Petes came out on top.
The New York Islanders selected Derek in the sixth round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft, 128th overall. He went on to play 467 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1993-94 and 2009-10 with the Islanders, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues. He scored 72 goals and assisted on 149 for 221 points. Unfortunately, Armstrong did not play in a single Stanley Cup playoff game.
In 1999-00, Derek did get a championship but it was with the Wolf Pack in the AHL. Over 23 playoff games, he added 23 points. Hartford reached the Calder Cup finals against the Rochester Americans and won the series in six games. Armstrong was awarded the Jack Butterfield Trophy as playoff MVP.
The following year, the Wolf Pack didn’t fare as well but Derek excelled. He scored 32 goals and assisted on 69 for 101 points over 75 games. His point total won him the John B. Sollenberger Trophy. He also was honoured with the Les Cunningham Award as AHL most valuable player. Armstrong tied for eighth in the league in goals and led the AHL in assists and points.
Armstrong took over as head coach of the Cutthroats for the 2012-13 season. He also has the role of director of hockey operations.
Smyth’s three years in the OHL from 1990-91 to 1992-93 were spent with the London Knights. 1992-93 was also a great season for Brad with 54 goals and 55 assists for 109 points over 65 games. Once again, numbers that would potentially lead the league today weren’t so exceptional back in 1992-93. Smyth’s 54 goals placed him tied for seventh in the league and he was out of the top ten for assists and points.
Undrafted, Brad went on to appear in 88 NHL games between 1995-96 to 2002-03 with the Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators. However, it was in the AHL where Smyth had a career worthy of potential induction into the AHL Hall of Fame.
Over 610 regular season AHL games, Brad scored 326 goals and assisted on 341 for 667 points. He played an additional 89 Calder Cup playoff games, adding another 85 points. His personal pinnacle came back in 1995-96, just his third year of pro hockey. With the Carolina Monarchs in the AHL, Smyth scored 68 goals and assisted on 58 for 126 points in 68 games. He won the AHL triple crown, winning the John B. Sollenberger Trophy for most points, the Les Cunningham Award as MVP and Brad led the league in goal scoring. Unfortunately, the Willie Marshall Award was nearly a decade from being introduced so there was no hardware for the 68 goals.
In 2000-01 when Derek Armstrong led the AHL in assists and points, teammate Brad Smyth once again led the league in goals, this time with 50.
Smyth had been in Europe from 2006-07 until 2011-12, appearing in Germany’s DEL, Austria’s EBEL, the U.K.’s EIHL, Italy’s LIHG and France’s Ligue Magnus. His final year in pro hockey came in 2012-13 with Denver in the Cutthroats first year of existence. With a little offensive magic still left in his stick, Brad totalled 78 points over 65 games.
Brad is not only the assistant coach to Derek Armstrong, he also has the title of assistant director of hockey operations.
This is the just the franchise’s second year of existence. In 2012-13, Denver reached the post season but fell in the opening round. 18 games into the 2013-14 season, the Cutthroats are tied for third in the ten team league, three points out of first place. Denver is affilated with the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL and the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL. The team plays out of the Denver Coliseum, a 8,140 seat venue opened in 1952.