Chirps from Center Ice

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

North Division Preview

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Back for day three for the yearly Chirps from Center Ice AHL Previews. At any time you can catch up on what you missed from the Western Conference via the handy dropdown menu at the top of the page.

We return to more familiar territory back in the Eastern Conference in the North Division. The Penguins play everyone in this division at least twice, with home games represented in bold.

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The North is no stranger to changes either. The name comes over as a Western Conference Division. It includes all five New York teams plus Toronto and St. John’s. Affiliation wise, the St. John’s IceCaps are no longer affiliated with the Winnipeg Jets, rather now the proud affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. All the other affiliations stayed the same.

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NHL Affiliation: New Jersey Devils

Record: 37-28-5-6 – 85 pts., 4th place Northeast Division

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Rick Kowalsky

Arena: Times Union Center

ECHL Affiliation: None

Offseason Moves: Jim O’Brien, Yann Danis, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond

The case for: Devils organization has been completely revamped from the top. Some of that will trickle down to the Capital District. These are solid signings by the Devils. Albany will no longer be a doormat club. Expect a contender this year.

The case against: Albany might be the fourth best team…in New York.

Media Coverage: Pete Dougherty for the Albany Times-Union and Bill Cain for The Daily Gazette.

Fan Blog: Tracey Lake for Thoughts Inside the Box

Twitter: @AlbanyDevils

Facebook: /AlbanyDevils

Instagram: albanydevils

Broadcaster: Josh Heller

vs. WBS: 11/21, 12/12

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NHL Affiliation: Ottawa Senators

Record: 34-34-7-1 – 76 pts., 3rd place East Division.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Luke Richardson

Arena: Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Evansville IceMen

Offseason Moves: Mike Kostka, Eric O’Dell, Zack Stortini

The case for: Binghamton trends as hot one season, cold the next. Last season may have been the Arctic on the Southern Tier, so expect the B-Sens to contend just based off of the law of averages.

The case against: The change in division. Utica is a defending Conference Champion. Toronto plays big boy hockey, Syracuse was a playoff team and Albany is trending up. Bingo may just end up as a good team in a great division.

Media Coverage: Matt Weinstein for the Press & Sun-Bulletin

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

Twitter: @BSens_Hockey

Facebook: /binghamtonsenators

Instagram: bsens_hockey

Broadcaster: Grady Whittenburg

vs. WBS: 10/28, 11/20, 11/25, 1/5, 3/23, 3/25

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NHL Affiliation: Buffalo Sabres

Record: 29-41-5-1 – 64 pts., 5th place North Division

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Randy Cunneyworth

Arena: Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial

ECHL Affiliation: Elmira Jackals

Offseason Moves: Cal O’Reilly, Bobby Sanguinetti, Jason Akeson, Colby Robak

The case for: Seemed like a fresh coat of paint for Buffalo this offseason. Perhaps some of that trickles down to Rochester this season. Offseason adds of O’Reilly and Sanguinetti, two key cogs in the run Utica made last year, should help.

The case against: Too much inexperience will counterbalance the offseason signings, and it looks like Rochester will be on the outside looking in again this season.

Media Coverage: Kevin Oklobzija for the Democrat and Chronicle

Fan Blog: Let’s Go Amerks

Twitter: @AmerksHockey

Facebook: /RochesterAmericans

Instagram: amerkshockey

Broadcaster: Don Stevens

vs. WBS: 11/14, 2/21

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NHL Affiliation: Montreal Canadiens

Record: 34-29-12-1 – 81 pts., 3rd place North Division playing as the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Sylvain Lefebvre

Arena: Mile One Centre

ECHL Affiliation: Brampton Beast

Offseason Moves: Eddie Pasquale, Joel Hanley

The case for: New affiliate with Montreal. The old Bulldogs seemed like a team that was just on the cusp of being a contender. Could this be the year on The Rock?

The case against: It’s a young team. Maybe a veteran scorer comes in midseason in a trade or something, but I don’t see a playoff team in St. John’s this season.

Media Coverage: Robin Short and Brendan McCarthy for the St. John’s Telegram

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

Twitter: @IceCapsAHL

Facebook: /stjohnsicecaps

Instagram: stjohnsicecaps

Broadcaster: Brian Rodgers (he is the only AHL broadcaster not on Twitter, and it’s a darn shame)

vs. WBS: 11/4, 11/6, 1/12, 1/13

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NHL Affiliation: Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 41-25-10-0 – 92 pts., 2nd place Northeast Division.

Playoffs: 5 seed – Swept by the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: Rob Zettler

Arena: Onondaga County War Memorial Arena

ECHL Affiliation: None

Offseason Moves: Matt Taormina, Tye McGinn

The case for: Solid youth. Many second year guys may step up for the Crunch this season under the guidance of veteran leadership.

The case against: Goaltending is one. Whether the players have tuned out Rob Zettler is another.

Media Coverage: Lindsay Kramer for The Post Standard.

Fan Blog: Chairman How’s Glorious Army

Twitter: @SyracuseCrunch

Facebook: /syracusecrunch

Instagram: officialsyracusecrunch

Broadcaster: Dan D’Uva

vs. WBS: 12/9, 12/19, 12/31, 1/16

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NHL Affiliation: Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 40-27-9-0 – 89 pts., 2nd place North Division.

Playoffs: 7 seed – Lost in five games to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: Sheldon Keefe

Arena: Ricoh Coliseum

ECHL Affiliation: Orlando Solar Bears

Offseason Moves: Kasperi Kapanen, Rich Clune

The case for: Youth infused with a group that finished second in the North last year comes over to the Eastern Conference. This team will compete.

The case against: Competing is one thing, a playoff team being the other is another? Toronto may walk a fine line all season.

Media Coverage: Kyle Cicarella for The Canadian Press

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

Twitter: @TorontoMarlies

Facebook: /TorontoMarlies

Instagram: torontomarlies

Broadcaster: Todd Crocker

vs. WBS: 12/18, 2/19

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NHL Affiliation: Vancouver Canucks

Record: 47-20-7-2 – 103 pts., 1st place North Division.

Playoffs: 1 seed – Lost in five games to the Manchester Monarchs in the Calder Cup Finals.

Head Coach: Travis Green

Arena: Utica Memorial Auditorium

ECHL Affiliation: None

Offseason Moves: Blair Jones, Richard Bachman, Taylor Fedun, Adam Cracknell, John Kurtz

The case for: This is a young team coached by an up and coming mastermind in Travis Green that has solid goaltending with Richard Bachman. The Comets should contend in this division.

The case against: Inexperience and lack of leadership may doom this team.

Media Coverage: Ben Birnell for the Utica Observer-Dispatch

Fan Blog: Comets Army

Twitter: @UticaComets

Facebook: /UticaComets

Instagram: uticacomets

Broadcaster: Brendan Burke

vs. WBS: 1/9, 2/9

Back to wrap things up tomorrow with the Atlantic Division Preview.

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