Chirps from Center Ice

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

South Division Preview

Welcome to the third annual Chirps from Center Ice AHL team previews where I, a Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins fan, give a preview of all 30 AHL teams. About half of these teams I have never seen (because the Penguins don’t play them) so I will do my best in attempting to handicap them.

Back this year in each team capsule is NHL affiliation, record last season, who the Head Coach is, the Arena they play in, ECHL affiliation if applicable, offseason moves, “the case for” hope this season and “the case against” success. Also back is team media coverage, be it media or a fan blog or both, team Twitter handle, team broadcaster and how many times they play the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

New this season is team Facebook pages, since I became the last person on Earth this summer to sign up and join Facebook.

The AHL did a bit of realignment this offseason affecting only the Western Conference which each individual divisional capsule will address. Still three divisions to two conferences, with the top eight in each conference making playoffs.

Speaking on the AHL and Facebook and all that, you can follow the AHL @theAHL on Twitter and /TheAHL on Facebook.

Note: I would be remiss if I did not mention the ongoing NHL lockout. I debated even acknowledging this in the Previews, but figure that it is the proverbial “elephant in the room” so it needs to be addressed. All of the teams will have “Lockout Additions” added to their respective capsules. Some teams don’t have lockout additions and those are noted. The case for and against each team is weighted for each team if or when the lockout ends.

Today, we begin in the rebranded “South” division. This was last years “West” division. The Abbotsford Heat move out of this division and the Charlotte Checkers move in. The Penguins do not play any of these teams in this division.

Here we go…

Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes)

Last Year: 38-29-3-6 (85 pts., 3rd place Midwest Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Jeff Daniels

Arena: Time Warner Cable Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Florida Everblades

Offseason Moves: Marc-André Gragnani, Tim Wallace

Lockout Additions: Dan Ellis, Justin Faulk

The case for: Third “new” division for the Checkers in three seasons. Overall winning record against these teams in this division last season.

The case against: One of those teams in this division is Oklahoma City, who is a Calder Cup contender this season.

Media coverage: Charlotte Observer

Fan Blog: Chasing Checkers (twitter / blog)

Twitter: @CheckersHockey

Facebook: /charlottecheckers

Broadcaster: Jason Shaya (twitter)

vs. WBS: Do not play.

Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild)

Last Year: 35-25-5-11 (86 pts., 4th place West Division)

Playoffs: 8th seed – lost in four games to the Oklahoma City Barons in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: John Torchetti

Arena: Toyota Center

ECHL Affiliation: Orlando Solar Bears

Offseason Moves: Brian Connelly

Lockout Additions: Marco Scandella, Mikael Granlund

The case for: I’d look for an improvement from this club from last year. If the lockout ends, the NHL talent drop off will not be that steep.

The case against: A lot of teams are good in this conference, division. The Aeros may tread water all season long, much like last year.

Media coverage: Houston Chronicle – Heather Galindo (twitter)

Fan Blog: The Third Intermission (twitter / blog)

Twitter: @Houston_Aeros

Facebook: /houstonaeros

Broadcaster: Joe O’Donnell (twitter)

vs. WBS: Do not play.

Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers)

Last Year: 45-22-4-5 (99 pts., 1st place West Division)

Playoffs: 1st seed – lost in five games to the Toronto Marlies in the Western Conference Finals

Head Coach: Todd Nelson

Arena: Cox Convention Center

ECHL Affiliation: Stockton Thunder

Offseason Moves: Dane Byers

Lockout Additions: Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Magnus Paajarvi

The case for: If the NHL lockout goes for any length of time, the Barons are serious Calder Cup contenders. They will be rich with youth players who were destined for Edmonton but because of the lockout are in Oklahoma City.

The case against: 1) The lockout ending. 2) History behind being the Calder Cup favorite in October (see: Falcons, Springfield – last five years)

Media coverage: The Oklahoman

Fan Blog: Artfulpuck (twitter / blog) and Tend the Farm (twitter / blog)

Twitter: @okcbarons

Facebook: /OKCBarons

Broadcaster: Jim Byers (twitter)

vs. WBS: Do not play.

Texas Stars (Dallas Stars)

Last Year: 31-40-3-2 (67 pts., 5th place West Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Willie Desjardins

Arena: Cedar Park Center

ECHL Affiliation: Idaho Steelheads

Offseason Moves: Aaron Rome, Antoine Roussel

Lockout Additions: Cody Eakin

The case for: Texas is a young team that looks to improve on its last place finishing order from the past season in the Western Conference. I see lots of talent here and a team that can surprise some people.

The case against: Youth rarely breeds success.

Media coverage: The Statesman

Fan Blog: Hundred Degree Hockey (twitter / blog)

Twitter: @TexasStars

Facebook: /TexasStars

Broadcaster: Owen Newkirk (twitter)

vs. WBS: Do not play.

San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers)

Last Year: 41-30-3-2 (87 pts., 3rd place West Division)

Playoffs: 6 seed – lost in five games to the Oklahoma City Barons in the Western Conference Semifinals

Head Coach: Chuck Weber

Arena: AT&T Center

ECHL Affiliation: Cincinnati Cyclones

Offseason Moves: Jason DeSantis, J.F. Jacques, Andre Deveaux, Jon Rheault

Lockout Additions: Tyson Strachan

The case for: The offseason moves certainly help this team. Jacques and Deveaux are prolific scorers at the AHL level and DeSantis found success in St. John’s after bouncing from Wheeling of the ECHL and Wilkes-Barre two seasons ago.

The case against: With the gobs of talent coming down from the NHL and the lack of any significant names wearing Rampage sweaters this fall, San Antonio may be in for a long season if the lockout does not end anytime sooner rather than later.

Media coverage: My San Antonio

Fan Blog: Runnin’ With the Herd (twitter / blog)

Twitter: @sarampage

Facebook: /sarampagehockey

Broadcaster: Dan Weiss (twitter)

vs. WBS: Do not play.

Back at it later today with the Midwest Division, as I am wedging two divisions in today on during the AHL’s Opening Week.

2 responses to “South Division Preview

  1. Stephen Meserve October 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Add Tomas Vincour to Texas lockout additions and Tyler Sloan to offseason acquisitions.

  2. Kimberly Peacock October 10, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    It was just announced recently that Taylor Hall will be joining the Barons soon. Damn the Barons are going to hate if the lockout ends soon