Chirps from Center Ice

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

Atlantic Division Preview

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Back we are for the fourth and final day of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Previews in the Atlantic Division, home of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins and seven other really good teams. We are one day away from the AHL’s 80th season! If you missed any of the previews from the other three divisions, you can find them by either scrolling down on the main page or by clicking on the menu above you and selecting the division you missed.

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Here is the Atlantic Division, or what will probably be named, “the Mega Powers Division” as this division is loaded. The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, Hershey Bears and Lehigh Valley Phantoms are the ghosts of the old East Division joined by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Hartford Wolf Pack and Springfield Falcons of the old Northeast Division joining up with original Atlantic Division members Providence Bruins and Portland Pirates. The only affiliation changes here are Portland with the Florida Panthers and Springfield with the Arizona Coyotes. The Penguins play everyone in this division at least six times, with home games noted in bold.

Let’s meet the teams…

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NHL Affiliation: New York Islanders

Record: 28-40-7-1 – 64 pts., 5th place Northeast Division

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Brent Thompson

Arena: Webster Bank Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Missouri Mavericks

Offseason Moves: Joe Whitney, Justin Florek, Christopher Gibson, Matt Carkner

The case for: The New York Islanders are trending upwards. This trend should trickle down and the Sound Tigers should be your dark horse pick to contend this season.

The case against: Youth and inexperience may be too much to overcome for a Sound Tigers team to overcome this year.

Media Coverage: Michael Fornabaio for the Connecticut Post

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

Twitter: @TheSoundTigers

Facebook: /soundtigers

Instagram: soundtigers

Broadcaster: Phil Giubileo

vs. WBS: 10/10, 10/18, 2/6, 3/12, 3/13, 4/2

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NHL Affiliation: New York Rangers

Record: 43-24-5-4 – 95 pts., 1st place Northeast Division

Playoffs: 3 seed – Swept by the Manchester Monarchs in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Head Coach: Ken Gernander

Arena: XL Center

ECHL Affiliation: Greenville Swamp Rabbits

Offseason Moves: Jayson Megna, Brian Gibbons, Luke Adam

The case for: Solid additions made by the Northeast Division winner that made it to the Conference Finals last year. Hartford is a playoff team this season, most likely.

The case against: The blueline isn’t going to strike fear in the hearts of anyone. Goaltenders need to be solid.

Media Coverage: Paul Doyle for the Hartford Courant and Mitch Beck, Independent

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

Twitter: @WolfPackAHL

Facebook: /HartfordWolfPack

Instagram: hartford_wolfpack

Broadcaster: Bob Crawford

vs. WBS: 10/30, 11/15, 12/5, 1/3, 1/27, 2/12

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NHL Affiliation: Washington Capitals

Record: 46-22-5-3 – 100 pts., 1st place East Division

Playoffs: 2 seed – Lost in six games to the Hartford Wolf Pack in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Head Coach: Troy Mann

Arena: Giant Center

ECHL Affiliation: South Carolina Stingrays

Offseason Moves: Zach Sill, Taylor Chorney, Chris Bourque, Sean Collins, Paul Carey, Carter Camper

The case for: Hershey reloaded its firepower up front. You can expect the Bears to rout several teams this season.

The case against: Goaltending is a concern with aging vets Justin Peters and Dan Ellis primed to tend the nets, but it may not matter when you are beating your opponents by multiple goals every night.

Media Coverage: Tim Leone and Dave Sottile for the Harrisburg Patriot-News

Fan Blog: Chocolate Hockey

Twitter: @TheHersheyBears

Facebook: /TheHersheyBears

Instagram: thehersheybears

Broadcaster: Scott Stuccio

vs. WBS: 11/13, 11/28, 12/6, 12/26, 2/23, 3/5, 3/6, 3/19, 3/20, 4/9, 4/10, 4/17

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NHL Affiliation: Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 33-35-7-1 – 74 pts., 4th place East Division

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Scott Gordon

Arena: PPL Center

ECHL Affiliation: Reading Royals

Offseason Moves: Chris Conner, Colin McDonald, Tim Brent, Jason LaBarbera, Geoff Walker

The case for: After a disappointing debut season in Allentown, Lehigh Valley returns for its sophomore campaign loaded for bear with seasoned veterans. This team can compete for the division crown, if not the conference.

The case against: In state rivals Hershey and Wilkes-Barre beefed up too and you are going to need to be better than one if not both teams in order to contend in this division. Will the Phantoms be able to pull it all together?

Media Coverage: Gary Blockus for The Morning Call

Fan Blog: The Horn and Bell

Twitter: @LVPhantoms

Facebook: /LehighValleyPhantoms

Instagram: lehighvalleyphantoms

Broadcaster: Bob Rotruck

vs. WBS: 10/17, 12/4, 12/11, 12/16, 12/27, 1/8, 1/29, 1/30, 3/4, 3/9, 4/8, 4/15

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NHL Affiliation: Florida Panthers

Record: 39-28-7-2 – 87 pts., 4th place Atlantic Division playing as the affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes.

Playoffs: 8 seed – Lost in five games to the Manchester Monarchs in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: Tom Rowe

Arena: Cross Insurance Arena

ECHL Affiliation: None

Offseason Moves: Brett Regner, Shane Harper, Rob Flick, Gregg McKegg, Sena Acolatse, Cameron Gaunce

The case for: This prospect base won the West Division as the San Antonio Rampage. It’s bolstered with solid AHL talent. You probably can pencil Portland in as a playoff team and if you want to, a division contender.

The case against: It’s different waters that the Pirates are navigating having old East Division heavyweights Wilkes-Barre and Hershey coming in as divisional mates and a very, very good Lehigh Valley team. I see all three of them as a playoff team. There is room at the table for only one more, possibly two with the crossover. Is Portland one of those two?

Media Coverage: Chris Roy for the Maine Hockey Journal

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

Twitter: @PortlandPirates

Facebook: /PortlandPirates

Instagram: piratesahl

Broadcaster: Jeff Mannix

vs. WBS: 1/22, 1/23, 2/13, 2/14, 2/26, 4/3

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NHL Affiliation: Boston Bruins

Record: 41-26-7-2 – 91 pts., 2nd place Atlantic Division

Playoffs: 6 seed – Lost in five games to the Hartford Wolf Pack in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Head Coach: Bruce Cassidy

Arena: Dunkin’ Donuts Center

ECHL Affiliation: Atlanta Gladiators

Offseason Moves: Brandon DeFazio, Colin Miller

The case for: Your dark horse division winner should be the Providence Bruins. They have a good young blueline, great goaltending and are well coached.

The case against: Looks more like a rebuild year for the P-Bruins, and rebuild teams are not playoff contenders.

Media Coverage: Mark Divver for the Providence Journal

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

Twitter: @AHLBruins

Facebook: /providencebruins

Instagram: ahlbruins

Broadcaster: Nick Gagalis

vs. WBS: 10/9, 11/27, 1/24, 2/28, 3/26, 4/16

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NHL Affiliation: Arizona Coyotes

Record: 38-28-8-2 – 86 pts., 3rd place Northeast Division playing as the affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Ron Rolston

Arena: MassMutual Center

ECHL Affiliation: Rapid City Rush

Offseason Moves: Dustin Jeffrey, Dylan Reese, Steven Delisle

The case for: Coyotes prospects come in as the affiliation switches from Columbus to Arizona. That Portland team last year surged at the end of the season and snuck past last years version of the Falcons team. It’s a core that is trending upwards.

The case against: I don’t see Springfield as a playoff team because of the youth that will be responsible to lead and the division that the Falcons play in. Night after night of Hartford, Providence, Wilkes-Barre and Hershey may spell doom for Springfield.

Media Coverage: MassLive / The Republican

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

Twitter: @TheFalconsAHL

Facebook: /falconsahl

Instagram: thefalconsahl

Broadcaster: Andy Zilch

vs. WBS: 10/23, 10/24, 1/2, 2/5, 2/27, 3/29

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NHL Affiliation: Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 45-24-3-4 – 97 pts., 2nd place East Division

Playoffs: 4 seed – Lost in five games to the Manchester Monarchs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Head Coach: Mike Sullivan

Arena: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

ECHL Affiliation: Wheeling Nailers

Offseason Moves: Kael Mouillerat, Kevin Porter, David Warsofsky, Will O’Neill, Steve Oleksy, Tyler Biggs

The case for: Loaded up for another run. These are not run of the mill additions made to an already stout Penguins lineup. This team will contend and can win the division, provided it can take down in-state rival Hershey and Lehigh Valley on a consistent basis.

The case against: Biggest problem that has crippled this Penguin franchise is playoffs. Despite having the sole longest streak in the AHL by any club, the Penguins have yet to reach the pinnacle. Is new leadership in Mike Sullivan enough to get them there?

Media Coverage: Tom Venesky for the Times Leader and Seth Lakso for The Citizens Voice

Fan Blog: If you are reading this, you know that there is nothing else that comes close.

Twitter: @WBSPenguins

Facebook: /WilkesBarreScrantonPenguins

Instagram: wbspenguins

Broadcaster: Mike O’Brien

These were fun this year. Should be a heck of a season to follow. It all starts tomorrow on Opening Night across the League. The Penguins travel to Providence, Rhode Island taking on the division rival Bruins for a 7 p.m. start. The Gameday setup hits the blog Friday at 3 p.m.

One response to “Atlantic Division Preview

  1. Patrick Sciortino October 8, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Looking forward to another year of following the Pens through your blog. LGP!