Chirps from Center Ice

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

Central Division Preview

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Rolling right along today with the 2015-16 Chirps from Center Ice AHL Previews. We looked at the Pacific Division yesterday, link here, and today we are in the other division in the Western Conference, the perennial powerhouse known as the Central Division. The Penguins don’t play anyone in this division either.

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Just like the Pacific Division, the Central Division has some changes. The Midwest Division from last year remains intact with the same five teams from last year and picks up old West Division foes Charlotte and Iowa. Also added is the Manitoba Moose, playing as the proud affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets. The only affiliation change in this division is Lake Erie Monsters dumping the Colorado Avalanche and joining forces with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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NHL Affiliation: Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 31-38-6-1 – 69 pts., 4th place West Division.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Mark Morris

Arena: Bojangles Coliseum

ECHL Affiliation: Florida Everblades

Offseason Moves: Jake Chelios, T.J. Hensick, Joakim Nordstrom

The case for: After last seasons debacle, the only way to go is up.

The case against: Moderate offseason upgrades to an already mediocre team. Could be another long season in the Queen City.

Media Coverage: Charlotte Observer

Fan Blog: Jenni Probst for Chasing Checkers

Twitter: @CheckersHockey

Facebook: /charlottecheckers

Instagram: checkershockey

Broadcaster: Jason Shaya

vs. WBS: Do not play.

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NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues

Record: 40-29-6-1 – 87 pts., 3rd place Midwest Division

Playoffs: 8 seed – Lost in five games to the Utica Comets in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: John Anderson

Arena: Allstate Arena

ECHL Affiliation: None

Offseason Moves: Ty Rattie, Eriah Hayes, Scooter Vaughn, Zach O’Brien

The case for: Coaching. John Anderson is one of the best in this league. He will guide the Wolves to the postseason again this year.

The case against: Goaltending looks shaky, especially if Jordan Binnington has a sophomore slump.

Media Coverage: The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times

Fan Blog: None, or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @Chicago_Wolves

Facebook: /chicagowolveshockey

Instagram: chicagowolveshockey

Broadcaster: Jason Shavers

vs. WBS: Do not play.

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NHL Affiliation: Detroit Red Wings

Record: 46-22-6-2 – 100 pts., 1st place Midwest Division

Playoffs: 2 seed – Lost to the Utica Comets in the Western Conference Finals.

Head Coach: Todd Nelson

Arena: Van Andel Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Toledo Walleye

Offseason Moves: Steve Spinell, Eric Tangradi, Brennan Evans

The case for: Grand Rapids boasts a bedrock of talent that is almost an embarrassment of riches. It’s a team that won the best division in the AHL last season that didn’t lose much in offseason defections.

The case against: It’s tough to find a crack in the armor of the Griffins, but if there is one it may be goaltending, and even that may be a reach.

Media Coverage: Pete Wallner for MLive

Fan Blog: None, or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @griffinshockey

Facebook: /grgriffins

Instagram: griffinshockey

Broadcaster: Bob Kaser

vs. WBS: Do not play.

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NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild

Record: 23-49-2-2 – 50 pts., 5th place West Divison

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: John Torchetti

Arena: Wells Fargo Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Quad City Mallards

Offseason Moves: Maxime Fortunus, Tyson Strachan, Zac Dalpe, Matt Carey.

The case for: Leagues worst team last year has no place to go than up. This year has to be better than last, right?

The case against: Fortunus, Dalpe and company will provide a boost, but I don’t see it as a playoff boost. Iowa won’t be among the playoff participants this season.

Media Coverage: Des Moines Register and Tom Witkosky, Independent.

Fan Blog: None, or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @IAWild

Facebook: /IAWild

Instagram: iowawild

Broadcaster: Joe O’Donnell

vs. WBS: Do not play.

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NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 35-29-8-4 – 82 pts., 4th place North Division playing as the affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Jared Bednar

Arena: Quicken Loans Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Kalamazoo Wings

Offseason Moves: Alex Broadhurst, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Brett Gallant, Jamie Sifers

The case for: Youth and a new affiliation with Columbus.

The case against: You will need to go big or go home in the Central Division this year. Is Lake Erie up to the challenge? Remains to be seen.

Media Coverage: Cleveland Plain Dealer

Fan Blog: None, or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @monstershockey

Facebook: /lakeeriemonsters

Instagram: monstershockey

Broadcaster: Tony Brown

vs. WBS: Do not play.

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NHL Affiliation: Winnipeg Jets

Record: 32-33-9-2 – 75 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division playing as the St. John’s IceCaps.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Keith McCambridge

Arena: MTS Centre

ECHL Affiliation: Tulsa Oilers

Offseason Moves: Darren Kramer, Matt Fraser, Kellen Lain

The case for: Lots of young faces playing in the same city their NHL parent club plays in should inspire the Moose team to lurk in fourth or fifth place in the Central and sneak in playoffs in the final third of the season.

The case against: One of the youngest team in the AHL? Playing in arguably the toughest division in the AHL? Good luck with that one, Moose.

Media Coverage: Patrick Williams for the Winnipeg Sun

Fan Blog: None, or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @ManitobaMoose

Facebook: /ManitobaMoose

Instagram: manitobamoose

Broadcaster: Mitch Peacock

vs. WBS: Do not play.

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NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators

Record: 33-28-8-7 – 81 pts., 5th place Midwest Division.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Dean Evason

Arena: BMO Harris Bradley Center

ECHL Affiliation: Cincinnati Cyclones

Offseason Moves: Connor Allen, Cody Bass

The case for: Milwaukee missed the playoffs last season for the first time in ages. They will be a better team this season.

The case against: Better may not cut it in a division that has teams that are already better that improved this offseason too.

Media Coverage: Dave Boehler for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Fan Blog: Admirals Roundtable

Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Facebook: /mkeadmirals

Instagram: mkeadmirals

Broadcaster: Aaron Sims

vs. WBS: Do not play.

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NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks

Record: 46-23-5-2 – 99 pts., 2nd place Midwest Division

Playoffs: 4 seed – Lost in four games to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Head Coach: Ted Dent

Arena: BMO Harris Bank Center

ECHL Affiliation: Indy Fuel

Offseason Moves: Mark Visentin, Daniel Ciampini, Jake Dowell

The case for: Modest additions made to a Rockford team that finished second to the Griffins last season. Expect Rockford to continue the trend upwards.

The case against: The problem which has plagued this IceHogs franchise is consistency. Is it consistent enough to make it thorough another season in a loaded Central Division? Time will tell.

Media Coverage: Rockford Register Star

Fan Blog: None, or I haven’t found it yet.

Twitter: @goicehogs

Facebook: /RockfordIceHogs

Instagram: rockfordicehogs

Broadcaster: Bob Mills

vs. WBS: Do not play.

I come in from out of the deep end with the Previews tomorrow with a look at the North Division.

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