Chirps from Center Ice

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

Penguins Acquire Three 7/28

Out of nowhere Tuesday, Pittsburgh announced the signing of a player and a trade for two more.

Eric Fehr was signed to a three year deal. You may remember Fehr as a Hershey Bear / Washington Capital. He’ll add center depth in Pittsburgh. He’s coming off of surgery and probably won’t be ready to start the season.

Brandon Sutter for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening from Vancouver. Bonino is a full time NHLer, while Clendening is a depth defenseman that has played in the AHL’s Western Conference with the Rockford IceHogs and Utica Comets. Clendening was on the Comets team that went to the Calder Cup Finals against Manchester.

It’s a great move all the way around for the Pittsburgh organization because it adds much needed depth to the Pittsburgh Penguins which means some tweener NHLers like Bryan Rust, Oskar Sundqvist and Scott Wilson are competing for one or two final spots in Pittsburgh with the loser ticketed for Wilkes-Barre and top line minutes. It’s a win-win.

I think the possibility that we see Adam Clendening in a Wilkes-Barre jersey is high. I’ll go ahead and add him to the 2015 Offseason Moves List.

Nothing else of importance going on in the AHL to note so if you’ll excuse me, I am going back to enjoy my summer.

Let’s Go Pens!

Uher Re-Signs / New Beat

News from Friday was that Dominik Uher re-signed with Pittsburgh. Uher was the last of the qualified restricted free agents to re-sign with Pittsburgh. I think that Uher pushes for a spot on Pittsburgh’s roster, but ultimately gets sent down to Wilkes-Barre again. It would be cool if he were paired on a line with Dominik Simon, who was a 2015 Pittsburgh draft pick ready to make the jump to North America. If Wilkes-Barre were to sign another Dominik and they all played on one line, someone would dub that line, “Dominik Cubed.” or something silly like that. If the line failed to produce, you could re-name the line, “Domin-Ohs.”

Or something.

Anyway, we found out today who Jonathan’s replacement is going to be at The Citizens’ Voice. His name is Seth Lakso. He’s coming over from the Charlotte Checkers beat for The Charlotte Observer. I’m sure he’ll introduce himself to the Penguins fans in due time. If you’d like to get a jump on following Seth, you can do so @SethLakso on Twitter. His first day on the Wilkes-Barre beat will be August 9.

Have a nice weekend.

Farnham / Seymour Re-Sign 7/13

Pair of signings today.

Coal Street re-upped Clark Seymour to an AHL pact today. Seymour is heading to Pittsburgh Tuesday to partake in Development Camp 2015 and was already listed as part of the camp when the rosters were announced about a week ago, so the signing comes as no surprise. Seymour could and should challenge for a spot in Wilkes-Barre come the Fall. Alan Saunders took a stab at defensive parings:

The other news today was that Pittsburgh signed Bobby Farnham to a one year deal. Lots of debate as to the use for a player like Farnham. Bottom line is, with Farnham being waiver eligible now and fighting and grit and sandpaper and whatever other kind of adjective you want to use to describe a player of Farnham’s caliber being phased out, I see Farnham as more of a minor leaguer than I do a full time, every day NHLer.

Question as to whether or not Farnham clears waivers if he’s placed on them, I don’t see that as an issue at all.

The 2015 Offseason Move List has been updated.

AHL Rule Changes, A Commentary

The AHL confirmed today what was long rumored for months. The five teams that are playing in California will play 68 games in the 2015-16 season while the other 25 teams in the 30 team league will play 76 games.

The two teams in the same division as the “California Five” which consist of San Diego (Anaheim affiliate) Bakersfield (Edmonton) Ontario (Los Angeles) San Jose (San Jose) and Stockton (Calgary) are Texas (Dallas) and San Antonio (Colorado) These Texas teams will play 76 games, while their divisional counterparts play eight fewer games.

The AHL, in an effort to somehow make things fair, indicated in their release today that qualification for playoffs will be based off of points percentage (points earned divided by points available ) vs. actual points for wins, losses or overtime or shootout losses.

For the 25 teams that are playing 76 games, it’s season ending points divided by 152. For the California Five, it’s season ending points divided by 136.

Say San Antonio and Bakersfield are in a battle for a playoff spot. They have an identical 88 points. But, based off of points percentage, San Antonio trails Bakersfield by .068 percentage points with a .579 points percentage vs. Bakersfield’s .647.

You may look at that and say that is not much of a deficit. But consider this. San Antonio plays the next night and loses in a shootout. They get a loser point, bringing their total points up to 89, one more point than divisional rival Bakersfield. Yet they still trail the Condors in points percentage by .061 points with a .586 points percentage.

Oh, by the way, the crossover is back. There are two conferences, with two divisions per conference. In each conference there are eight teams in a division and seven teams in the other. If the fifth place team in the division with eight teams has a higher points percentage than the fourth place team in the division with seven teams, they get the playoff spot over the fourth place team in the division with eight teams.

So the potential exists that San Antonio or Texas could lose out in a playoff battle to a team in the Central Division, a division that will have all teams play 76 games, because of points percentage.

It isn’t fair.

It isn’t fair because San Antonio or Texas is relegated to fourth place in their division with five other teams playing less games based off of points percentages. It was calculated that a win for a California Five team is worth 1.47% in the standings as opposed to 1.32% for the 25 other teams in the AHL, San Antonio and Texas included.

Play less games, your wins count more.

Nope, not fair.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

How do the scoring races get decided? What about the veteran rule? (320 pro games) Salaries? Per diems? Less games mean less travel, less travel means less wear and tear on a California Five body vs. the wars waged in Wilkes-Barre, Hershey, Lehigh Valley and Binghamton or anywhere else not domiciled in the Golden State. How do you collectively bargain all of this?

The reality is that the situation is still in flux. Nothing has been announced yet regarding a collective bargaining agreement for next year. What I mentioned in the last paragraph was probably only a thumbnail of the other issues that are up in the air which I haven’t even thought of.

Other, relatively minor, rules announced were three on three overtime for 5:00, bringing the AHL on the same level as the NHL and ECHL. If there is no winner at the end of overtime, it’s onto a three player shootout. Also announced was a “coaches challenge” rule which, provided you have a time out, can challenge a reviewable play via video review. Finally, the face-off rule was changed. If you are defending in your zone, your stick goes down first. At center ice, the visitors stick goes down first.

What do you think of these rule changes? Fair or foul?

Local Kids, Guaranteed Dates, Dumo Gets Paid

Just a quick blurb to clean up some news that has been out there…

Penguins signed Shavertown native Patrick McGrath to an AHL deal on Wednesday. McGrath appeared in two games for the Pens last season and spent most of his professional time with Wheeling of the ECHL. He told Tom Venesky in the papers that he is gunning for a spot in Wilkes-Barre in the Fall.

– Will McGrath be on the opening night roster? You only have 100 more days to find out. Coal Street announced that Saturday, October 17 will be the home opener. The AHL opens shop on their 80th season on October 9, so it is a good chance that the Penguins open up their season on the road. The schedule should be announced some time in August.

– Other guaranteed home dates as handed down by Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza are December 12, January 9, January 30, February 13 and March 26. All Saturday dates.

Brian Dumoulin re-signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins today. He was a qualified restricted free agent. The only other outstanding unsigned qualified restricted free agents are Beau Bennett, Bobby Farnham and Dominik Uher. Dumoulin will make $1.6 million over the life of the two year contract or $800k a year. It’s a one way deal. He’s waiver eligible so I consider him graduated to full time NHL work.

The Offseason Moves List has been updated to reflect the McGrath addition and the Dumoulin re-signing.

Enjoy your summer.

Jay Leach Named Assistant Coach 7/7

Announced today that Jay Leach will join Mike Sullivan behind the bench in the Fall for the 2015-16 Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins season. Leach was named Assistant Coach today.

Leach, a defenseman by trade, was an assistant coach in Germany this past season and won the Deutsche Eishockey Liga championship.

Here’s his rap sheet…

– 499 games in the AHL during a 12 year career.
– Served as captain in four AHL cities; Providence in 2005-07, Lowell in 2008-09, Worcester in 2010-11 and with the Albany Devils in 2012-13.
– Extremely bright, hard working individual as a player.
Not the most famous person living in his house.

Tom Venesky from the Times-Leader had some tweets…

I was thinking about this on my ride in from work today, the Penguins could be an even better team than they were last season and season prior, if that makes any sense and is even possible. Everything looks great on paper in July, but I have no reason to believe that come October, November, December and beyond that the Penguins will be a strong, competitive hockey team.

In other news, Pittsburgh announced their development camp roster today. Jonathan Bombulie was kind enough to put together capsules on the players involved that you can check out here.

The Top 100 names from the AHL Free Agent Big Board are nearly wiped clean. I will continue to run the board at the top of the blog for a few more days / week or so and will continue to update is as players sign.

Hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am.

NHL Free Agency, Day 3

Quieter day in terms of the past 48 hours or so, but here’s what happened on July 3…

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Re-signed defenseman Reid McNeill. McNeill adds grit to an already loaded Wilkes-Barre defense, should he get pushed down to the AHL level in the Fall. McNeill was a restricted free agent. The Pens qualified Brian Dumoulin, Bobby Farnham and Dominik Uher. I’m guessing that the announcements on their signings will come soon.

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After no signings yesterday, the Rangers announced the signing of Luke Adam. Adam wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer by Columbus, so the Rangers snatched him up. Adam was 16-26-42 split between Rochester and Springfield last year. I would expect those number to go higher for what is shaping up to be a pretty good Hartford team.

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Signed forward Colin McDonald. McDonald was 17 on our big board, and could push for a spot on the Flyers in the Fall but if not, look for him to be relied upon to score a bunch of goals for the Phantoms long with newly signed Chris Conner and Tim Brent, if he doesn’t make it through.

So an already loaded Atlantic Division continues to stock up.

The Big Board and Offseason Moves List have all been updated.

Happy Independence Day, or if you aren’t American, Happy Saturday.

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