Chirps from Center Ice

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

Pacific Division Preview

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Back again this year are the soon to be famous Chirps from Center Ice AHL Previews. I think that the AHL Previews have been the longest standing feature piece on the blog since its inception about 2,000 posts ago.

Anyway, if you are new here, it’s my best effort at painting the picture for each AHL team. I do it division by division. Today, we start in the far away land in the Western Conference known as the Pacific Division.

But before we do that, I just want to mention that nothing changed this year format-wise other than just a slight change in the media information. Face it folks, gone are the days where you read about a sporting event in the paper the next day. If there is a blog that covers the AHL team more than the newspaper, that gets the primary spot. In cities where I don’t know of a blog, it defaults to whatever paper is in the city. Links are provided where necessary.

Follow the American Hockey League on Twitter @theAHL and @AHLPR. On Facebook at /TheAHL and TheAHL on Instagram.

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This season, the teams that play just 68 games grows by one as the Tucson Roadrunners enter the fray as the old Springfield Falcons team. No other affiliation changes here and still the “California Five” teams of Bakersfield, Ontario, San Diego, San Jose and Stockton remain on the 68 game plan as the Texas teams in San Antonio and Cedar Park remain with the rest of the league at 76 games.

Penguins don’t play anyone in this division, so the “vs. WBS” section was removed for redundancy sake.

Here we go…

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NHL Affiliation: Edmonton Oilers

Record: 31-28-7-2 (71 pts., 5th place Pacific Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Gerry Fleming

Arena: Rabobank Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Norfolk Admirals

Offseason Moves: Frankie Simonelli, Taylor Beck, Mark Fraser

The Case For: Forgettable inaugural season for the Condors at the AHL level. Team seems more committed to being competitive this year.

The Case Against: I don’t know, man. It’s an Edmonton affiliate. They had one good year two years ago with Oklahoma City making it to the Western Conference Finals. When were Edmonton affiliates competitive?

Media Coverage: Mike Griffith for the Bakersfield Californian

Twitter: @Condors

Facebook: /BakersfieldCondors

Instagram: condors

Broadcaster: Ryan Holt

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NHL Affiliation: Los Angeles Kings

Record: 44-19-4-1 (93 pts., 1st place Pacific Division)

Playoffs: Played as the one seed out of the Pacific Division and were swept by the Lake Erie Monsters in the Western Conference Finals.

Head Coach: Mike Stothers

Arena: Citizens Business Bank Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Manchester Monarchs

Offseason Moves: T.J. Hensick, Jack Campbell, Daniel Ciampini

The Case For: Defending Western Conference Champions hit a road block named Lake Erie last season. I see no reason for that to slow this Reign team down. Expect them to use that as a learning experience and again to contend in the Pacific and overall in the West.

The Case Against: Did Lake Erie expose a weakness that other teams will now be able to capitalize on?

Media Coverage: Lindsay Czarnecki for the blog LA Kings Insider.

Twitter: @ontarioreign

Facebook: /ontarioreign

Instagram: ontarioreignhockey

Broadcaster: Joseph Zakrzewski

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NHL Affiliation: Colorado Avalanche

Record: 33-35-8-0 (74 pts., 7th place Pacific Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Eric Veilleux

Arena: AT&T Center

ECHL Affiliation: Colorado Eagles

Offseason Moves: Nathan Lieuwen, Jeremy Smith, Ryan Stanton, Mike Sislo, Joe Whitney, Trent Vogelhuber, Jim O’Brien

The Case For: Don’t sleep on this Rampage team. This team, at least on paper, is built to contend out of the box.

The Case Against: Lots of stars, one puck. Good division, competitive Central Division.

Media Coverage: Nathan Mallet for the blog Running with the Herd

Twitter: @sarampage

Facebook: /sarampagehockey

Instagram: sarampage

Broadcaster: Dan Weiss

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NHL Affiliation: Anaheim Ducks

Record: 39-23-4-2 (84 pts., 2nd place Pacific Division)

Playoffs: Played as the two seed out of the Pacific Division and were beaten by the Ontario Reign in the Pacific Division Finals in five games.

Head Coach: Dallas Eakins

Arena: Valley View Casino Center

ECHL Affiliation: Utah Grizzlies

Offseason Moves: Jeff Schultz, Nate Guenin, Scott Sabourin, Nick Tarnasky

The Case For: Solid veteran signings for the Gulls this season. San Diego will be a contender again this season.

The Case Against: Ontario is strong, Bakersfield is looking for a bounceback, San Antonio is a dark horse Calder Cup contender, Texas is always great. Gulls will need to be on their toes all season if they want to be around in April.

Media Coverage: Dan Arel for the blog Mayor’s Manor

Twitter: @SDGullsAHL

Facebook: /SDGullsAHL

Instagram: sdgullsahl

Broadcaster: Craig Elsten

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NHL Affiliation: San Jose Sharks

Record: 31-26-7-2 (73 pts., 4th place Pacific Division)

Playoffs: Played as the four seed out of the Pacific Division and were beaten by the Ontario Reign in the Pacific Division Semifinals in four games.

Head Coach: Roy Sommer

Arena: SAP Center

ECHL Affiliation: Allen Americans

Offseason Moves: Dan Kelly

The Case For: Struggling to find one. San Jose was a playoff team last season, but struggled to get there and were easily dismissed. It’s possible that the Barracuda were happy with the team that they had and only added a player in Kelly just because.

The Case Against: Too many competitive teams in the Pacific. The Barracuda ain’t one of them.

Media Coverage: Bay Area News Group

Twitter: @sjbarracuda

Facebook: /sjbarracuda

Instagram: sjbarracuda

Broadcaster: Nick Nollenberger

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NHL Affiliation: Calgary Flames

Record: 32-32-2-2 (68 pts., 6th place Pacific Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Ryan Huska

Arena: Stockton Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Adirondack Thunder

Offseason Moves: Linden Vey, Jamie Devane (PTO), Mike Angelidis, Matt Bailey, Matt Frattin

The Case For: These are solid signings for the Heat, who had a terrible inaugural season. Look for better things from Stockton this season.

The Case Against: Goaltending may be an issue, defense too. In this division where the emphasis is on percentage points, could be killer.

Media Coverage: Scott Linesburgh for The Record

Twitter: @AHLHeat

Facebook: /ahlheat

Instagram: ahlheat

Broadcaster: Brandon Kisker

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NHL Affiliation: Dallas Stars

Record: 40-25-8-3 (91 pts., 3rd place Pacific Division)

Playoffs: Played as the three seed out of the Pacific Division and were beaten by the San Diego Gulls in the Pacific Division Semifinals in four games.

Head Coach: Derek Laxdal

Arena: H-E-B Center at Cedar Park

ECHL Affiliation: Idaho Steelheads

Offseason Moves: Brandon DeFazio, Caleb Herbert, Dustin Stevenson, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Austin Fyten

The Case For: Texas is always competitive, and there are no indicators that this season will be the anomaly. May not be the best team in Texas, though.

The Case Against: It shouldn’t be that hard to name four more teams better than Texas in the Pacific.

Media Coverage: Stephen Meserve for the blog 100 Degree Hockey

Twitter: @TexasStars

Facebook: /TexasStars

Instagram: txstarshockey

Broadcaster: Brien Rea

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NHL Affiliation: Arizona Coyotes

Record: 26-42-3-5 (60 pts., 8th place Atlantic Division, playing as the Springfield Falcons)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Mark Lamb

Arena: Tucson Convention Center

ECHL Affiliation: Rapid City Rush

Offseason Moves: Justin Peters, Brandon Burlon, Anthony DeAngelo, Jamie McBain, Chris Mueller, Garrett Ross

The Case For: Should be an interesting maiden voyage in Tucson this season with this Roadrunners team. Coming over as the god awful Springfield Falcons team, this team, at least on paper, looks to be very competitive.

The Case Against: How many, “on paper” teams have ever won a Calder Cup or been competitive in reality?

Media Coverage: Alexander Kinkopf 

Twitter: @RoadrunnersAHL

Facebook: /RoadrunnersAHL

Instagram: roadrunnersahl

Broadcaster: Tom Callahan

Back tomorrow at noon Wilkes-Barre time for the Central Division Previews.

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