Chirps from Center Ice

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

2019-20 Chirps from Center Ice Reader Survey

It’s been a few years since I did one of these, but I am interested your input on the blog and what, if anything I can do to improve for the upcoming season. So, with that said, I created a Reader Survey for you to complete. I have a couple things I would like to change up this season, but before I run anything out there unannounced, now is as good a time as ever to get input on my ideas.

But before I get to the form, let me offload one bit of news from Tuesday. I saw the Laval Rocket tweet it this afternoon so you may not know about it yet because I don’t think anyone else did, but the 2019-20 pricing structure is out for the AHL’s streaming platform, AHLTV.

In summary, the only changes are to the Daily Pass, a $1 increase to $7.99 a day from $6.99 a day. The other pricing structures didn’t change at all.

New this year is the option to purchase a regular season and playoff pass for $99.99 which gets you every AHL home and away game including playoffs. The playoff package was separate last year and cost $24.99, so if you are confident enough that your team is going to make the playoffs, you can pay the extra $20 upfront and enjoy the entirety of the AHL season from October to June.

That’s pretty much it for now. Rookie tournaments start this weekend. News will be sparse this week so it’s actually a great time to do a survey.

Click here to be brought to the survey. Thank you in advance for your input.

Friday Potpourri

Couple of loose ends to tie off before the start of the Labor Day Weekend…

In a move that shouldn’t surprise you, Mike Vellucci was named General Manager of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins this week. It is a dual capacity role that the reigning AHL Coach of the Year is familiar with, having served in the same position with the Charlotte Checkers last season.

Coal Street went hard on the Vellucci news this week. He’s here to win, and they have a series of video interviews where he says the right things to give fans of the AHL team hope for this season. Who am I to doubt a coach who was elected best last year who also led the AHL’s best team to the Calder Cup?

The Penguins are running the video series on their Twitter page and have the first two up. I’m likely not going to edit in the third or fourth here for the blog but if you want to see them, just watch their Twitter feed.

Ben Lovejoy retired this week. I have three all time favorite Penguins. He is one of them. The other two are Wade Brookbank and Casey DeSmith. Lovejoy came through Wilkes-Barre where he learned the pro game and was a likable, personable player. I’m hoping now that with the cloud of an extension agreement cleared that Coal Street starts adding to their Hall of Fame and that Lovejoy is one of the names who gets enshrined someday.

Patrick McGrath has found himself work. It’s with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL. That news was announced Thursday. McGrath plans on reporting to the Grizzlies AHL affiliate Colorado’s camp in the hopes of picking up an AHL contract. McGrath was an extremely popular player whom a lot of fans related to here in Wilkes-Barre. I wish him nothing but the best with the Grizzlies. Utah actually makes a visit to Wheeling on November 15 of this year and one has to guess that a lot of Nailers fans will want to see that one.

In other AHL news, Phantoms captain Colin McDoland signed with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It’s assumed that McDonald will wear the “C” for the Sound Tigers this year as their long time captain Ben Holmstrom signed an ECHL deal with Norfolk earlier in the week.

Pittsburgh announced details on their prospect tournament for next weekend complete with a roster which Jonathan Bombulie dissected. A lot of these names you can look for in Wilkes-Barre at some point in the immediate or near future, when eligible.

AHL had this nice graphic.

I’m no math major, but that’s five weeks. Enjoy what’s left of summer until then.

Bill Guerin Named General Manager of Minnesota Wild

Usually when things like this happen, it’s the worst kept secret in town. Well on Wednesday, it was made official. Bill Guerin was named the General Manager of the Minnesota Wild.

That news obviously leaves a vacancy now in Wilkes-Barre as the AHL Penguins are without a General Manager, the spot previously filled by Guerin.

My guess for a replacement is Mike Vellucci, the current head coach of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. He would make the most logical choice as natural replacement as he had experience in the position with the Charlotte Checkers.

This piece, buried behind a paywall, notes Vellucci as well as Scott Young and Tom Kostopoulos as candidates for the GM position in Wilkes-Barre.

These things normally come about fairly quickly as contingency plans are in place weeks before news becomes official, so we probably won’t have to wait long for the name of the person who will fill the role that Guerin left behind.

Other news…

– Jeff Taylor has found a home in 2019-20, signing this past Tuesday with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Taylor was a non-tendered restricted free agent Pittsburgh did not qualify.

If you read the blog last week, you knew about the home dates for the preseason action the Penguins will be participating in, well on Monday they filled us in on the road schedule. Saturday, September 28 in Hershey at 7; Sunday in Allentown against Lehigh Valley at 3:05.

That’s all for now.

Promos and Preseason Schedules

I received my WBS Penguins pick sheet in the mail Friday and with it there was some information worth sharing:

– Preseason:

That’s news to me, usually that information is out by now. Nothing on a road schedule yet, but assume that the Bears and Phantoms reciprocate on Saturday and Sunday.

– Promo Schedule:

Hit expand on the tweet above to have it show up on another tab for you if you can’t make it out here.

Looks like they are going with lapel pins and doing away with the card sets. Magnets are back on opening night. Headshot poster, a pillow case, Led Zeppelin Night highlight some of the newer promos Coal Street is running with this season.

– McDonald’s Promos:

I like to collect the hats because I don’t have a lot of hair left. Thanks, Dad!

Miscellany:

I remember this being $25 for a referral of a full share ticket member. If it was indeed $35, someone please correct me.

Couple other things:

It’s the Sunday, December 15 game in Cleveland that is now moved to Friday, December 13. The Pens went from having two Friday’s off to just one now. Anything in the name of less Sunday games.

Bill Guerin’s name is still being tossed around in the GM search for the Minnesota Wild, according to The Athletic.

What’s the Penguins plan if Guerin is hired? Glad you asked, also from The Athletic.

Anyway, that’s it. August is flying by. Enjoy the weekend.

Pens Ink Devane and Hirano – Other Notes

I’m a day late on the news, but Coal Street announced on Wednesday that they have signed Jamie Devane and also re-signed Yushi Hirano. Hirano is a depth signing for the Penguins and probably should push for more time now as he has a year experience playing North American hockey.

Devane is your Patrick McGrath replacement. Here’s why.

Patrick McGrath was a hand picked player by Clark Donatelli. They had experience with each other in Wheeling and a few seasons in Wilkes-Barre.

Devane was coached by new Penguins Head Coach Mike Vellucci in Plymouth of the OHL.

Devane is going to count as a veteran, and had a less than impressive turn last season with a bad Ontario Reign team. But, he has 318 pro games of experience. He has 47 total points (20-27) and 587 PIMs.

McGrath with the same amount of pugilistic grit with a slightly better offensive touch? Possibly.

I’ve had a few people ask me what’s going to happen with McGrath. Quite simply, he’s going to be with another organization next season. It’s a new regime in Wilkes-Barre with coaching. Yes, McGrath is a likable local guy and I personally am going to miss seeing his father on the concourse chatting up about cigars and Dennis Bonvie stories, but it’s a business at the end of the day.

Emptying out the rest of the notebook since the last time I blogged. These would only get passing mentions if they stood alone on a separate piece, so instead of blogging for the sake of blogging, you fill the bucket with notes then empty the bucket with a big piece when the bucket gets full.

— The same day that the Pens signed Devane and Hirano, Charlotte added Cedric Lacroix. Lacroix scored two goals against the Binghamton Devils on the Penguins last game of the season in April in his only AHL action all season. Lacroix spent the season with Wheeling. He was actually traded in a futures trade with Greenville of the ECHL then signed his AHL deal with Charlotte.

— WBS General Manager Bill Guerin has interviewed for the Minnesota Wild GM job. This article, behind The Athletic Minnesota paywall, only has a few passing mentions of Guerin, but it’s worth a mention.

— Pittsburgh made a trade for John Marino for a draft with Edmonton a few weeks ago. Here’s what we know on him so far, link on the news in the tweets below:

Mark Divver had this on the trade, which is something you should pay attention to because Divver has the pulse of college hockey in the Northeast:

The condition on the draft pick is as follows: The Oilers will receive Pittsburgh’s 2021 sixth-round draft choice if Marino signs with the Penguins, or if the team trades his rights.

So we will see. UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, Pittsburgh made the Marino signing official. He’s signed for two years.

— Coal Street had a nice Q&A with Brandon Hawkins. 27 tattoos. That’s ridiculous.

Here is one with Jon Lizotte. Lots of players that are going to be familiar names in the future.

— Chris Summers and Matt O’Connor will be playing for different teams next season. Summers with Nurnberg and O’Connor in Denmark.

That’s all. The Pens should have news here soon on a preseason schedule and possibly a promotional one as well. We are under 60 days until the start of the season. Go outside if you haven’t already.

Blue Powell! Other Notes 7/16

Emptying out the notebook with a bunch of signings and re-signings. Have to hurry before my ice cream melts, so here we go.

Tuesday, the Penguins re-signed Teddy Blueger. Blueger was a restricted free agent and is most likely graduated full time to the NHL next season.

Coal Street also made some news today, signing Myles Powell. Powell scored 31 goals on a pretty stacked Cincinnati Cyclones team in the ECHL last season. That was good enough to lead all ECHL rookies.

With Jarrett Burton defecting to Rochester a few weeks ago, it’s Rochester now kicking themselves on the one that got away.

Powell will probably push for a spot here in Wilkes-Barre, appearing in a few preseason games, but I foresee him as a Wheeling hand. Who knows.

Also, Chris Wideman signed with Anaheim. Wideman, a former AHL Defenseman of the Year, appeared in a handful of games before getting hurt. The Pens acquired him in the trade for J-S Dea.

Adam Johnson re-signed also, signing his qualifying offer. Johnson will most likely start in Wilkes-Barre and get a call after December. He’s the next to ripen on the vine and get a full time call up at some point.

Ben Sexton re-signed with Wilkes-Barre. Good solid signing for the Penguins here when healthy.

That’s pretty much it. Stay cool.

2019-20 AHL Schedule Released

For the third year in a row, the AHL released its playing schedule for the upcoming season in the second week of July instead of late August.

We already know from yesterday three of the 76 games that the Penguins will play in the upcoming season, so it’s time to look at the rest of the schedule that goes all the way to April 2020.

League release here, Penguins release here.

I always do a question and answer session with these schedule releases. They are simple because they are the same questions I ask when unwrap the schedule every season looking at everything. So here we go:

1) Alright, so the Penguins didn’t put out a schedule matrix of opponents this season like they did the last two seasons. Is there one off the hop I can look at?

Yep, here it is.

GAMES vs. OPPONENTS 

(Home/Road)

Atlantic Division

North Division

Central Division

Bridgeport (3/3)

Binghamton (3/3)

San Antonio (2/2)

Charlotte (2/2)

Cleveland (2/2)

Texas (2/2)

Hartford (3/3)

Rochester (1/1)

Hershey (6/6)

Syracuse (1/1)

Lehigh Valley (6/6)

Utica (1/1)

Providence (3/3)

Springfield (3/3)

No games with Belleville, Laval or Toronto this season. No visits this year to Milwaukee, Grand Rapids or Chicago either. And the Pacific Division? Ha! What’s that!?

2) Oh wow, there are some new teams I don’t recognize there!

Right, the Penguins head to Texas in January for four games against both the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage. This also includes the Penguins trip to Charlotte to visit the Checkers. The Rampage come in twice in October while the Stars visit in December.

3) Longest road trip? Longest home stand?

It’s the month of January, basically.

Home stand of six straight games (the New Years Eve game against Springfield gets lumped in here) starts off the Penguins home stand which goes to January 11. Then it’s on the road for six straight against the Stars, Rampage and Checkers.

4) How many three in threes?

5) Sunday home games! We know how much you love hate those! How many this year?

Just two. I don’t know how they managed this, but I love them for it. They are in the month of March (8th vs. Binghamton) and April (5th vs. Lehigh Valley) and start at 3:05.

6) Any more charts?

Here you go.

GAMES BY DAY OF THE WEEK

 

GAMES BY MONTH

 

 

Home

Road

Total

 

 

 

Home

Road

Total

Monday

0

0

0

October

4

5

9

Tuesday

1

1

2

November

7

6

13

Wednesday

8

7

15

December

6

6

12

Thursday

0

0

0

January

6

6

12

Friday

12

13

25

February

6

7

13

Saturday

15

13

28

March

6

5

11

Sunday

2

4

6

April

3

3

6

7) Are the Penguins playing any workday afternoon games?

They played in three last year, one in Springfield and two in Bridgeport. They aren’t playing in any this year.

8) The AHL All-Star Classic this year is where again?

That would be in Ontario, California on January 26 and January 27, 2020.

9) Did the Penguins do away with themes? They did away with themes, didn’t they?

It would appear as such since there hasn’t been one in the last three seasons. Other than the first week to ten days of a given season, when was the last time you remember what the theme was for a Penguins season in November or December? Smart marketing strategy if you ask me, why waste summertime brainpower to come up with a gimmick if you aren’t going to follow through on it for the entirety of the season?

10) Are the Penguins playing in any special venues this year?

No, it doesn’t seem to be that much of a fad anymore if you look at the schedule. Other than four dates across town in Toronto at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto that the Marlies are playing against various opponents, everyone is playing their schedule in their home arenas. No outdoor games either.

11) Anything else I need to know?

I can’t think of anything. Pretty standard schedule with your Lehigh Valley’s and Hershey’s dominating the majority of the schedule. I don’t like the fact we don’t play everyone in the Conference, but it’s like that for a lot of teams and but for novelty of seeing a team that you don’t always see, it doesn’t really have that much of an impact on your playoff hopes since everyone plays out of their division to get to the playoffs. Pretty standard start times too but for the New Years Eve 3:05 start and that one Wednesday road game in Providence in April which starts at 6:05.

You can sync the Penguins schedule here and then select whichever platform applies to you.

Now go back to your summer because October will be here before you know it.