Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

Category Archives: The AHL

Go West, Young Man

Today, the AHL announced and confirmed the worst kept secret in minor league hockey for years now. There will be a new Pacific Division that will represent the AHL clubs of the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. In layman terms, here is what is going to happen in 2015-16.

— The Norfolk Admirals, affiliates of the Anaheim Ducks, are leaving town for San Diego, California.
— The Adirondack Flames, affiliates of the Calgary Flames, are leaving town for Stockton, California.
— The Oklahoma City Barons, affiliates of the Edmonton Oilers, are leaving town for Bakersfield, California.
— The Manchester Monarchs, affiliates of the Los Angeles Kings, are leaving town for Ontario, California.
— The Worcester Sharks, affiliates of the San Jose Sharks, are leaving town for San Jose, California.

It is expected that Norfolk, Adirondack and Manchester will have ECHL teams next season. There is no word on ECHL plans for Oklahoma City or Worcester yet. That league is scheduling a press conference Friday at 3 p.m.

From what I read, these NHL teams wanted a west coast pod for years now. They didn’t want a jet lagged player who just flew five hours across the continental United States the morning that their star players gets sick.

From what I believe, I don’t think that they necessarily care about attendance or if the teams are successful or not. When I think San Diego, I don’t think hockey. But AHL President Dave Andrews said at the AHL’s State of the League on Monday the following…

We’re going through a process we’ve never gone through before, which, if successful, will be difficult for a number of our markets, but at the same time, is probably critical to the health of our league from a stability point of view and maintaining a 30-team league.

The lynch-pin to that statement in my opinion was, “if successful.” It is still too soon to say that it will be. I think that what the AHL cares more about is pleasing their NHL partners and maintaining a healthy, 30 team league. The shine of having a brand new AHL team in San Diego, Stockton, Ontario and other places will be great for the first couple of years. But what happens say, five years in, if these teams start to struggle at the gate and struggle financially? What would it mean to the overall health of the AHL if close to 20% of the teams are struggling?

Wilkes-Barre wise, this westward movement will have little to no impact. You will probably see some realignment to the divisions again. I think that the five team divisions go away. You could see Wilkes-Barre in a division next year with usual suspects Hershey, Lehigh Valley and Binghamton and mix in any combination of Syracuse, Albany, Utica, Bridgeport, Rochester or even Toronto. You’re also going to see more of teams like Providence, Portland, Hartford and maybe Lake Erie, Hamilton or Charlotte on the schedule for next year.

Do the Penguins go the way of the Admirals, Sharks, Monarchs, Barons and Flames? I don’t think so. You are talking a four hour trip to Pittsburgh as opposed to a flight. Players from all over the AHL rave about Wilkes-Barre as a premier AHL destination. The Coal Street facility is a pristine asset to have in anchoring an AHL team like the Penguins to a city such as Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins lease with the Arena and affiliation with Pittsburgh expire in 2019, but I think it is safe to say that you can rest easy in knowing that something like this dark day in five AHL markets across the East will never happen in the Wyoming Valley.

While I have you, Pittsburgh sent Bryan Rust and Scott Wilson back to Wilkes-Barre Wednesday. Alex Boak was recalled from Wheeling Thursday.

Penguins play tomorrow in Springfield. Gameday for this hits the blog Friday at 3.

AHL All-Star Classic Recap — West WINS 14-12

I filled in for Tom Venesky from the Times-Leader tonight. You can read the game story in Tuesday’s paper.

Fighting internet issues in a cold arena stage sitting right behind the goal judge is the price that you sometimes have to pay. But who is complaining. The game story was filed without issue and I can finally decompress and write this blog post. More of my element.

Anyway, the Western Conference won 14-12 tonight over the Eastern Conference. There were four hat tricks. There were two penalty shots. There were co-MVP’s. Charles Hudon from Hamilton had a hat trick and an assist and Utica’s Jacob Markstrom stopped 14 of 16 shots in the first period to take home the awards.

Something that I noticed in this game was a lackadaisical start in the beginning, an offensive display in the second period and then a frenetic pace in the final period. There were twelve goals scored in the second period alone. Five scored by the Western Conference in record time, 4:35. They scored six and the East scored six.

Really you could have, if you wanted to, made a case for Oklahoma City goaltender Richard Bachman to get the co-MVP if you wanted to. The East trailed all game, and really stepped on the gas in the final period. Bachman stopped 18 of 22 shots to preserve the West’s win.

But this is an all-star event, one that doesn’t count and this is Utica after all, so give the starting goaltender for the Western Conference the honor and call it a night.

Pouliot and Kostopoulos both had assists on the night. Kostopoulous actually had two but the second was taken away.

Anyway, there was other things to attend to today. Like half of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins team being called up to Pittsburgh. Scott Harrington, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson and Andrew Ebbett were recalled this afternoon. Wilkes-Barre doesn’t play again until Friday and there was talk about Pittsburgh getting healthy. so we will see who if anyone trickles down in time for puck drop at 7 p.m. Friday in Springfield.

I always like to come to these events to meet people and mingle with those I know. Another thing I like to do is get audio of the AHL’s State of the League Address with Dave Andrews, the AHL’s president. Bob Howard from the Power Play Post Show there this morning and posted audio.

Here is the link in raw format…

Nothing really to take out of it from a Wilkes-Barre perspective. Nothing has been finalized with the AHL’s movement out West yet. There could be some other teams shook up but not necessarily moving West. The deadline for all of this is in May, but they would like to have everything in place by April for scheduling and ticketing purposes.

He also mentioned scheduling. The AHL isn’t moving off 76 games any time soon. Some teams want 72 games but there are others that love 76. It’s about 50/50 and you need 75%.

There could be unbalanced conferences with teams like here in Utica and Rochester coming East to play. All of that is talk though with bigger challenges in the way.

It’s really interesting audio, so give it a listen if you have 54 minutes of time to kill.

I am back on the road Tuesday, heading home. We will pick up the real stuff again at the end of the week.

Reinforcements, Reassignments, Replacements

Bunch of news happening in the last twelve hours since the St. John’s recap. Here it is….

I’m fine with Zatkoff resting up and coming back better than ever next week against Springfield, or whenever it is he comes back. Goaltenders aren’t the main attraction in an All-Star exhibition. No one plays defense, and the goaltenders are left out to dry most times. I remember reading something one time that said when a goaltender came back from an All-Star event that his timing was all off and his second half performance suffered. For a Penguins team that sits currently out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, would you rather an off Zatkoff or a sharp Zatkoff for the Springtime playoff push? I would take the latter. So maybe the injury is a blessing in disguise.

More tomorrow vs. Norfolk.

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond Suspended Three Games

The headline says it all. The AHL announced this afternoon that the Penguins winger has been suspended for three games for this hit he laid on Providence’s Seth Griffith….

As a result, Leblond will miss Wednesday’s home game against St. John’s and the weekend road trip to Norfolk. He’s eligible to return next Friday against Springfield.

Friday Night Roundup

With Wilkes-Barre off tonight, I watched a bunch of AHL acton tonight. I even had Wheeling on ECHL.tv on a side screen. Anyway, here’s the important games that matter to the Penguins this weekend….

ALB    3
button_lv200    2

Albany scores three unanswered goals in the third period and stun the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-2 in Allentown. It was the Devils second straight win after trailing after two periods and just the Phantoms third regulation loss at home. The Phantoms burn one of their games in hand on the Penguins and Bears tonight. They now have three on Wilkes-Barre and one on Hershey.

Speaking of the Hershey Bears, they were off tonight and host the Devils tomorrow night. Lehigh Valley gets Binghamton tomorrow at home. The B-Sens throttled the Syracuse Crunch 5-0 at home tonight, buoyed by a first period blitzkrieg that saw the B-Sens score four goals.

button_14mch200    4
WOR    5

The Worcester Sharks have won five straight games after a 5-4 shootout win at home against the Manchester Monarchs. The Sharks have won two games against the Monarchs this week and host the Penguins tomorrow. The Sharks battled back from a 2-0 and 3-2 deficits against a Manchester team that has pretty much been the class of the Eastern Conference all season long.

BRI    2
PRO    3

The P-Bruins, the Penguins Sunday opponent, beat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at home 3-2 in overtime. Providence snaps a five game losing streak. Providence travels to Manchester Saturday.

WHL    5
BRA    2

Eric Hartzell stops 32 of 34 and the Wheeling Nailers win their first ever game on Canadian soil with a 5-2 win over the Brampton Beast tonight. The teams rematch again tomorrow and Sunday in Ontario.

button_pit200     3
button_nyi200     6

You never see me mention Pittsburgh scores here, because there are literally a thousand Pittsbugh Penguins blogs out there, but since I had it on in the background of the computer tonight, it’s worth a mention that the Penguins lost to the Islanders 6-3. Kyle Okposo had four goals for the Islanders. Boxscore here. How nice it must be to have ice time stats and face off percentages. Maybe someday here in the AHL.

No change to the top of the East Division standings tonight. The Penguins lead with 44 points. Hershey has 43 and Lehigh Valley has 41.

Gameday for the Worcester setup hits the blog at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

We’re Getting the Band Back Together

You may have forgotten the names Derrick Pouliot, Andrew Ebbett and Bryan Rust. If you have, how could you? They are the first, fifth and seventh leading point getters respectively on this Wilkes-Barre / Scranton team. How soon we forget!

Anyway, Pouliot was returned from Pittsburgh this week. Rust came down with Taylor Chorney the next day and Andrew Ebbett was placed on waivers yesterday and cleared at noon today. He hasn’t been assigned to Coal Street yet, but could be in the next 30 days or next 10 games.

Fallout from these moves saw on Friday Sahir Gill being sent back to Wheeling and Chorney and Scott Harrington swapping places.

EDIT: Scott Wilson was activated off of injured reserve and sent to Wilkes-Barre this afternoon. Wilson still leads the AHL Penguins with an 88% goals for percentage.

For a Penguins team on a bit of a slide with Bears in their mirror looming large (Hershey has two games in hand) and Phantoms in both teams mirrors looming larger (Lehigh Valley has four games in hand on Wilkes-Barre and two on the Bears) these reinforcements are a welcome addition.

The Penguins take on a Worcester Sharks team tomorrow that has won four straight coming into tonight, when they rematch against division leading Manchester who they beat for the first time Tuesday. Then Wilkes-Barre takes on the Providence Bruins on Sunday. Providence has been up and down this season and it appears that the Penguins are catching the Bruins down, as they are 0-3-1-1 in their last five games.

Hershey is off Friday too. They host Albany Saturday, who will have played their third game this week.

Lehigh Valley gets Albany at home Friday, Binghamton Saturday and travel to Hershey Sunday. The Phantoms will be playing six games in the next nine nights.

The East Division looks like this as we head into the weekend….

Team

Games Played

Record

Points

This Weekend

wbs14_200

39

20-15-1-3

44

@ WOR 1/17
@ PRO 1/18

her14_200

37

19-13-4-1

43

vs. ALB 1/17
vs. LV 1/18

lv14

35

18-12-4-1

41

vs. ALB 1/16
vs. BNG 1/17
@ HER 1/18

Should be interesting to see how everything shakes out Sunday at around 6 p.m. to say the least.

Gameday for Worcester will hit the blog Saturday at 3.

Bobbleheads, Reinforcements and Relocations

It’s cold out. Hope you are staying warm. One snowflake falls and creates snow, snow creates a snowball and a snowball rolls down the hill and starts an avalanche. Kind of like blogging. Individually, me writing about Bobby Farnham coming back into town or a Tux bobblehead isn’t warranted for a single blog post. But a conglomeration of the above? Let’s blog…

Coal Street announced three bobbleheads they are giving away later this season on Wednesday. They are….

Jayson Megna (available February 21)

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (available March 14)

tux bobble

Tux! (available April 4)

 

Photos courtesy of the Pens Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, top to bottom.

Scott Harrington and Bobby Farnham were sent back from Pittsburgh over the last two days. In a corresponding move, Coal Street sent Patrick McGrath, Zack Torquato and Clark Seymour back to Wheeling.

Norfolk is probably going away next season. This report out of Virginia states that the team may be sold to Anaheim as the AHL Westward Expansion continues. Oklahoma City won’t be back next season, probably heading to Bakersfield, home of the ECHL Condors. Anaheim’s AHL affiliate could potentially end up in San Diego. There are rumors that Manchester (LA Kings affiliate) may end up in Ontario (LA Kings ECHL affiliate) and Worcester (San Jose affiliate) may be going away too.

Be thankful you have a team here in Wilkes-Barre that gives away bobbleheads. Come to a game if you haven’t yet. This team is in first place, there are ticket deals. They care about you and the teams success on the ice. What are you going to do, go outside?

Gameday setup for the rematch vs. Norfolk hits the blog Friday at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!

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