Chirps from Center Ice

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

Central Division Preview

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Welcome back to Day 2 of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Previews. Yesterday we checked out the Pacific Division and today we find ourselves finishing out the Western Conference in the Central Division. As the previews advance, you can find the links at the top of the blog in the menu bar under “AHL Previews.”

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The only change comes from the Central Division is the name of the defending champion Cleveland Monsters, who last season played under the name of Lake Erie Monsters. The Penguins don’t play anyone in this division either, so keep dreaming.

Here we go.

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NHL Affiliation: Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 36-32-3-5 (80 pts., 5th place Central Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Ulf Samuelsson

Arena: Bojangles’ Coliseum

ECHL Affiliation: Florida Everblades

Offseason Moves: Andrew Miller, Kevin Raine, Mitchell Heard

The Case For: Charlotte can be a team to watch this season. Expect Milwaukee and Grand Rapids to contend for the division, but Charlotte can play upset.

The Case Against: Iowa is retooled, discount Cleveland at your peril. There may be too many cooks in the contenders kitchen for the Checkers to make it to the postseason.

Media Coverage: Jenni Probst for the blog Chasing Checkers

Twitter: @CheckersHockey

Facebook: /charlottecheckers

Instagram: checkershockey

Broadcaster: Jason Shaya

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NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues

Record: 33-35-5-3 (74 pts., 6th place Central Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Craig Berube

Arena: Allstate Arena

ECHL Affiliation: None

Offseason Moves: Kenny Agostino, Alex Friesen, Brad Hunt, Andrew Agozzino, Morgan Ellis, Wade Megan

The Case For: A team that was expected to contend last season never got out of second gear and was forgotten about. Don’t expect that this season.

The Case Against: Central is shaping up to be the most competitive division again in the AHL. Do the Wolves really have all the horses to contend?

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

Twitter: @Chicago_Wolves

Facebook: /ChicagoWolves

Instagram: chicagowolveshockey

Broadcaster: Jason Shaver

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NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets

Record: 43-22-6-5 (97 pts., 2nd place Central Division)

Playoffs: Won Calder Cup. Played as the two seed out of the Central Division and swept Hershey in four games.

Head Coach: John Madden

Arena: Quicken Loans Arena

ECHL Affiliation: None

Offseason Moves: Aaron Palushaj

The Case For: Defending champs look to avoid the championship hangover. I get the sense that Cleveland will field another competitive club again this season.

The Case Against: Don’t expect a repeat though.

Media Coverage: Cleveland Plain Dealer

Twitter: @monstershockey

Facebook: /monstershockey

Instagram: monstershockey

Broadcaster: Tony Brown

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NHL Affiliation: Detroit Red Wings

Record: 44-30-10-4 (90 pts., 4th place Central Division)

Playoffs: Played as the four seed out of the Central Division and were swept by the Milwaukee Admirals in three games in the Central Division Semifinals.

Head Coach: Todd Nelson

Arena: Van Andel Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Toledo Walleye

Offseason Moves: Matt Ford, Carter Sandlak, Ben Street, Matt Lorito

The Case For: Solid, big time signings for Grand Rapids and Todd Ford to tinker with. The Griffins disappointed last year with some growing pains last season. Expect things to run a bit smoother this season with these signings and Nelson’s second season.

The Case Against: Will be the same with any contending team in this division, any run of bad luck can get you buried in a hurry.

Media Coverage: Pete Wallner for Grand Rapids Press

Twitter: @griffinshockey

Facebook: /grgriffins

Instagram: griffinshockey

Broadcaster: Bob Kaser

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NHL Affiliation: Minnesota Wild

Record: 24-41-5-6 (59 pts., 8th place Central Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Derek Lalonde

Arena: Wells Fargo Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Quad City Mallards

Offseason Moves: Patrick Cannone, Victor Bartley, Alex Stalock

The Case For: Re-tooled lineup for Iowa. Do not expect the Wild to be a team you can just steamroll anymore.

The Case Against: We will believe the Wild’s facelift when we see it.

Media Coverage: Des Moines Register and Tom Witosky, Independent

Twitter: @IAWild

Facebook: /IAWild

Instagram: iowawild

Broadcaster: Joe O’Donnell

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NHL Affiliation: Winnipeg Jets

Record: 26-41-4-5 (61 pts., 7th place Central Division)

Playoffs: Did not qualify.

Head Coach: Pascal Vincent

Arena: MTS Centre

ECHL Affiliation: Tulsa Oilers

Offseason Moves: Kevin Czuczman

The Case For: The AHL is all about developing talent for the purposes of getting to the next level. The Moose will develop their talent, beyond that?

The Case Against: I can’t say anything nice, so I won’t say anything at all.

Media Coverage: Patrick Williams

Twitter: @ManitobaMoose

Facebook: /ManitobaMoose

Instagram: manitobamoose

Broadcaster: Mitch Peacock

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NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators

Record: 48-23-3-2 (101 pts., 1st place Central Division)

Playoffs: Played as the one seed out of the Central Division and lost in six games to the Lake Erie Monsters in the Central Division Finals.

Head Coach: Dean Evason

Arena: UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena

ECHL Affiliation: Cincinnati Cyclones

Offseason Moves: Matt Irwin, Michael Liambas, Harry Zolnierczyk

The Case For: Another strong team ready to take over the Central Division rests in Milwaukee. The Admirals should contend out of the gate. If they sustain dominance, they can run away with this division.

The Case Against: I wouldn’t expect a runaway from the Admirals. A playoff team? Yes. A Cup contending team though?

Media Coverage: Admirals Roundtable, who have a blog and a twitter feed and Dave Boehler, who writes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Twitter: @mkeadmirals

Facebook: /mkeadmirals

Instagram: mkeadmirals

Broadcaster: Aaron Sims

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NHL Affiliation: Chicago Blackhawks

Record: 40-22-10-4 (94 pts., 3rd place Central Division)

Playoffs: Played as the three seed out of the Central Division and were swept in three games by the Lake Erie Monsters in the Central Division Semifinals.

Head Coach: Ted Dent

Arena: BMO Harris Bank Center

ECHL Affiliation: Indy Fuel

Offseason Moves: Sam Carrick, Jeremy Langlois, Daniel Ciampini

The Case For: Look for Cleveland to have a hangover, Chicago and Manitoba to struggle. Iowa is an unproven commodity. You can probably pencil in Rockford as a playoff team and contender.

The Case Against: The Central Division was the most competitive division last season, don’t expect that to change. A couple bad weekends strung together and Rockford can be on the outside looking in.

Media Coverage: Rockford Register Star

Twitter: @goicehogs

Facebook: /RockfordIceHogs

Instagram: rockfordicehogs

Broadcaster: Bob Mills

Back in more familiar territory Wednesday as we tackle the North Division.

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