On the final day of the 2016-17 Chirps from Center Ice AHL Previews, we find ourselves in familiar territory. It’s the Atlantic Division and the division where the Penguins will play the most amount of games. The only changes here is the old Portland Pirates team being sold to the Florida Panthers and their relocating the prospects to AHL League Headquarters residing in Springfield, Massachusetts. In keeping with yesterday’s North Division, home games for the Penguins are listed in bold.
NHL Affiliation: New York Islanders
Record: 40-29-4-3 (87 pts., 5th place Atlantic Division)
Playoffs: Played as the five seed out of the Atlantic Division on account of having a higher points percentage than fourth place Syracuse in the North Division and were swept by the Toronto Marlies in the North Division Semifinals.
Head Coach: Brent Thompson
Arena: Webster Bank Arena
ECHL Affiliation: Missouri Mavericks
Offseason Moves: Kellen Jones
The Case For: In this division, with the caliber of teams in it, I’m not finding one.
The Case Against: Please keep reading.
Media Coverage: The Great Mike Fornabaio for the Connecticut Post
Broadcaster: Alan Fuehring
vs. WBS: 11/5, 11/18, 11/25, 11/26, 12/11, 4/15
NHL Affiliation: New York Rangers
Record: 41-32-3-0 (85 pts., 6th place Atlantic Division)
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Head Coach: Ken Gernander
Arena: XL Center
ECHL Affiliation: Greenville Swamp Rabbits
Offseason Moves: Michael Paliotta, Philip McRae, Matt Carey, Sean Sullivan
The Case For: Solid veteran signings made by Hartford here.
The Case Against: Four teams make the playoffs. Pennsylvania is a lock. That leaves room for one more team. Is Hartford it?
Media Coverage: Mitch Beck for the blog Howlings Today
Broadcaster: Bob Crawford
vs. WBS: 10/15, 11/13, 12/14, 1/3, 3/5, 3/10, 3/21, 4/8
NHL Affiliation: Washington Capitals
Record: 43-21-5-7 (98 pts., 1st place Atlantic Division)
Playoffs: Played as the one seed playing out of the Atlantic Division and were swept by the Lake Erie Monsters in the Calder Cup Finals.
Head Coach: Troy Mann
Arena: Giant Center
ECHL Affiliation: South Carolina Stingrays
Offseason Moves: Hubert Labrie, Dominic Monardo, Joe Cannata, Darren Dietz, Christian Thomas
The Case For: Bears return the Bourque brothers in Ryan and Chris, Zach Sill, along with these solid signings. The Bears are the division champion favorites until another team comes and knocks them off.
The Case Against: Is this an upgraded Bears team that got swept by the Monsters in the Calder Cup Finals or baseline upgrades to a team in whose in-state rivals upgraded big time?
Media Coverage: Kyle Mace for the blog Chocolate Hockey
Broadcaster: Zack Fisch
vs. WBS: 10/23, 11/19, 11/23, 12/9, 12/10, 1/6, 1/8, 1/18, 1/21, 2/10, 3/4, 4/14
NHL Affiliation: Philadelphia Flyers
Record: 34-35-4-3 (75 pts., 7th place Atlantic Division)
Playoffs: Did not qualify.
Head Coach: Scott Gordon
Arena: PPL Center
ECHL Affiliation: Reading Royals
Offseason Moves: T.J. Brennan, Will O’Neill, Andy Miele, Greg Carey
The Case For: Brennan and Miele were 1-2 in the offseason AHL Big Board ran here on the blog in the summer. The Phantoms can’t mess up the season with these all-stars can they?
The Case Against: If history is any indicator, Lehigh Valley will find a way to mess things up and be irrelevant by January.
Media Coverage: Stephen Gross for The Morning Call and @KRAM209 for The Horn and Bell blog.
Broadcaster: Bob Rotruck
vs. WBS: 11/16, 1/20, 2/4, 2/14, 2/25, 3/8, 3/17, 3/18, 3/25, 4/1, 4/7, 4/12
NHL Affiliation: Boston Bruins
Record: 41-22-9-4 (95 pts., 2nd place Atlantic Division)
Playoffs: Played as the two seed out of the Atlantic Division and were swept in three games by the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins in the Atlantic Division Semifinals.
Head Coach: Kevin Dean
Arena: Dunkin’ Donuts Center
ECHL Affiliation: Atlanta Gladiators
Offseason Moves: Alex Grant, Anton Khudobin, Tim Schaller
The Case For: Veteran defense and goaltender added to the mix for Kevin Dean. Bruins have been around for a bit, but this feels like a dawning of a new era in Providence.
The Case Against: We’ll believe the hype when we see the Bruins in the second of the playoffs.
Media Coverage: Mark Divver for the Providence Journal
Broadcaster: Craig Durham
vs. WBS: 11/6, 11/12, 12/30, 2/19, 3/11, 4/9
NHL Affiliation: Florida Panthers
Record: 41-27-6-2 (90 pts., 4th place Atlantic Division playing as the Portland Pirates)
Playoffs: As the Portland Pirates and playing as a four seed out of the Atlantic Division, lost in five games to the Hershey Bears in the Atlantic Division Semifinals.
Head Coach: Geordie Kinnear
Arena: MassMutual Center
ECHL Affiliation: None.
Offseason Moves: Ryan Horvat
The Case For: Should be a better campaign for Springfield fans as Florida moves their prospects in. Panthers have been trending upwards, so maybe the Thunderbirds can play upset.
The Case Against: Healthy doses of Providence, Hershey, Wilkes-Barre and we’ll go ahead and throw Lehigh Valley in for the Thunderbirds can’t bode well for Springfield’s playoff chances.
Media Coverage: MassLive.com
Broadcaster: Ryan Smith
vs. WBS: 10/21, 10/29, 12/17, 12/27, 2/18, 3/31
NHL Affiliation: Pittsburgh Penguins
Record: 43-27-4-2 (92 pts., 3rd place Atlantic Division)
Playoffs: Playing as the three seed out of the Atlantic Division, lost in overtime in Game Seven in the Atlantic Division Finals to the Hershey Bears.
Head Coach: Clark Donatelli
Arena: Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
ECHL Affiliation: Wheeling Nailers
Offseason Moves: Stuart Percy, Cameron Gaunce, Chad Ruhwedel, Garrett Wilson, Thomas DiPauli, Ryan Haggerty
The Case For: Deepest blue line in the division, if not the conference, if not in all of the AHL. Penguins will win a lot because the other team may not score.
The Case Against: Shallowest forward corps in the division. Beyond the top two lines, who will score? Penguins may not win a lot because they can’t score.
Media Coverage: The best in the business. Seth Lakso for the Citizens Voice, Tom Venesky for the Times Leader, and you know who for you know what blog. Probably the most covered AHL team in the league with two daily newspapers and a full time blog covering the team from every angle.
Broadcaster: Mike O’Brien with Nick Hart on color.
If you have a team going Friday, good luck. Pens open their eighteenth season Saturday at home against Hartford. The Gameday setup for that will hit the blog Saturday afternoon at 3.