Chirps from Center Ice

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

Asked and Answered 12/11

Lots of questions in the mailbag this week so let’s get right to them…

1 being Completely Not Worried, 10 being Extremely Worried… 1-10 How alarmed should Wilkes-Barre / Scranton fans be of the teams recent form from this past week (1 out of 6 points)? Also, I know you have been attending games for a long time at Mohegan Sun Arena… Is there any hidden gem vendors or food stands you highly recommend?
– Matt

After one weekend? A four. The Penguins caught a team they never played before in Texas on a run that sometimes a team goes on which makes them unbeatable (Hershey last year, after the start of the New Year) and gave away points to a non-Conference opponent. Texas’ speed was on full display and it was something that the Penguins couldn’t keep up with. One of the fastest guys on the team in Adam Johnson is hit in the head with a puck from his own teammate in Jon Lizotte Friday and was out. Hard to combat that.

You can’t get too worked up over one bad weekend when you came off of an almost perfect November (9-2-1-1, 20 points out of a possible 26) – you just can’t. Now, if the trend continues (Rochester is an elite North Division team and the Penguins have not had much success there) and Cleveland is a bit inconsistent, but find me an AHL team which isn’t. The Penguins have to be careful here.

As for vendors, the stand right behind me in 104 has a decent chicken sandwich. They give you chips and a pickle. I add BBQ sauce. It is tasty. Also there is a nacho vendor across from me in 118/119 that has all the toppings you can think of for nachos besides your heated up cheese-wiz and olives. Chickie’s and Pete’s isn’t bad either, but they baste everything there in one big salt lick. The Roast Beast located in the Lion’s Den (enter the East gate, make a left, past Tim Horton’s, next stand on your left) is a good choice too. My best advice is come to the game on a full stomach.

Is there any consideration for future cross AHL blogging? Even though I’m a Hershey fan, your interview with 100 Degree Hockey was very enjoyable. I know it’s not a question about the state of WBS … but it would be awesome to see more of.
– Chrs

A long time ago, I used to host a divisional summit with fans and bloggers of all the teams in the division. Thing is, I have lost contact with most of them and with all the other things going on with the blog (the Stat Board, AHL Power Rankings, a real job, etc.) it hasn’t come up as an idea in recent times. Also, I don’t know anyone in Hartford, Providence or Bridgeport outside of media that goes to or blogs about those teams such as I do. So it would be an incomplete effort if I chose to resurrect it. However as this is an ever evolving project of mine, it may be worth considering because you aren’t the first person to tell me how much they enjoyed that piece with Stephen.

What is your view/projection for this team right now? I know call ups factor in to some degree but it feels like inconsistency is setting in..
– Tracey

I don’t see inconsistency. One bad weekend does not a season make.

As far as a projection, I think it is too soon to concede the division. I don’t honestly know how long Hartford can sustain the run they have been on. Now, the Wolf Pack did win all three of their games this past weekend and crushed an overall good Providence team in the process Sunday. They have resurrected themselves and are on top of the Atlantic Division again….I think two PA teams make playoffs. Right now Lehigh Valley is too banged up and far too inconsistent to be considered one of the two. That leaves Hartford, Springfield and Providence (assuming Wilkes-Barre and Hershey are locks) for two more spots. I like Providence over Springfield and Hartford and whomever between the Wolf Pack and Springfield are the least inconsistent and the time. The Thunderbirds always play the Penguins tough and you’ll get no argument from me if you tell me that they are the bigger divisional rival at present over the Phantoms and Bears. They, too, struggle with consistency.

To answer straight up the question, a three seed starting playoffs on the road either against Providence or Hershey.

1. Why do you think Vellucci is not playing Dustin Tokarski in goal? 2. Ryan Haggerty has been quiet and not scoring. Do you think they should try him on the top line right side with Stefan Noesen gone it might get him going or do you think he’s too slow for that line?
– Rose

They don’t need to play Tokarski in goal right now for two reasons: 1. Casey DeSmith is going to get the lion share of starts, 2. Emil Larmi is someone they see as their future in goal and want to immerse him into as much of the North American playing experience as possible. It’s obvious right now that Larmi is getting some mentoring from DeSmith. Also, while I am not covering practices or anything like that being around the team day-to-day, Tokarski could be simply resting up whatever it is that ailed him at the beginning of the season. The more and more Tristan Jarry plays well in Pittsburgh, the more and more that all goaltenders (Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith included) become trade bait for another NHL team. Eventually, Tokarski will get his reps. He’s a two time Calder Cup winning goaltender and right now a very valuable AHL insurance piece barring injury, trade or call-up.

Ryan Haggerty has been a victim of the veteran rule. I don’t see him as a top liner at all. I think right now, they really like Jan Drozg as the replacement for Noesen for as long as he stays up with Pittsburgh.

Without Stefan Noesen, the first line doesn’t look nearly as lethal. With Hershey getting hot and WBS already being in 3rd, can this team make the playoffs without him?
– Josh

Yes. I don’t foresee Noesen’s stay with Pittsburgh being permanent first of all. I think they like Sam Lafferty as the 13th forward more so than Noesen. Now, you run the risk of Noesen being scooped up as a waiver claim, but I think he passes without incident if put on. If another NHL team wanted him, they would have signed him in October. Sure, he worked last week on the second line up there and scored a goal. But then they put him on the fourth line and while I didn’t watch any of the game in Detroit Saturday, reports were that the fourth line overall didn’t have an overly grand showing. Does it continue? I guess you can read those tea leaves this week when Pittsburgh plays Montreal, Columbus and the LA Kings. Where they and how they apply Noesen should foreshadow whether or not he remains in the lineup when Bryan Rust and Sidney Crosby return in a few weeks.

As far as playoffs? Bridgeport, Charlotte and one PA team which I think right now is Lehigh Valley isn’t going to make it. That leaves you in a battle with a team like Springfield. I like the Penguins chances now, but it is still too early to say even with my perditions they finish third in the question above, especially in this league.

Has a WBS Penguin ever looked as ineffective while scoring at a point per game pace as Agozzino has this season? He hasn’t brought anything to the ice aside from scoring, much of which seems to come on the power play anyway.
– Mike

You know, it’s a very interesting way to look at it. When Stefan Noesen signed his NHL contract last week with Pittsburgh, he accounted for a third of the goals scored for Wilkes-Barre at the time. The thing is, so did Agozzino. Andrew actually took over the point scoring lead from Noesen with his power play goal on Friday and now leads the team in scoring with 24 points. Agozzino has been on the ice for 14 goals on the power play, and 20 at even strength. However, and I think this is where you are going with this, 16 goals scored against have come with Agozzino and the top line on the ice. That isn’t something that you want just 25 games into the season over the course of an entire 76 game campaign. The same can also be said about Agozzino’s linemates in Noesen (12 goals against at even strength) and Miletic (12 also) so you may be onto something here which is definitely worth keeping an eye on going forward.

Why doesn’t Mike Vellucci like Anthony Angello? On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving he was benched for the 3rd period and he is getting hardly any power play/penalty kill time. Last year he was used whenever possible and got as much ice time as Lafferty. Is it an issue this year with effort? Or maybe attitude? He is a guy who is quick, has size, can hit, and can shoot. I don’t see a reason why he shouldn’t be playing whenever possible.
– Josh

Well, let’s examine the numbers again.

Angello has appeared in every contest (25 games through this past Sunday) this season. He’s got a 50% goals for differential 16 goals scored for and against while he was on the ice and 42.86% at even strength (12 for, 16 against) and has been applied on the second power play unit for the most part. Penalty minutes aren’t a problem, he only has 24 of them. He’s 23 years old in his second full professional year. He has the size, 6’5, 210 and has the body of an NHL-er but his skating is so-so and he lacks Adam Johnson-like speed. Should he be further along in his development as a viable NHL call-up? I believe Mike Vellucci thinks so. He should be scoring more. He has seven points as someone who has played in the top six for a vast majority of the 25 games on a team that dominated the month of November. I think it is a bit of tough love from the coaching staff that yes, you have all of the physical assets to contribute at the AHL level, but it’s the coaches job to graduate players to the NHL and not allow them to stagnate when they have the size to be in the NHL. They clearly want more from him.

When do you think Brandon Hawkins gets called up? Personally I think he’s been better than Drozg, and he just scored a hat trick.
– Emma

When there is room. Right now, you’re replacing him with who on the wing exactly? You can maybe argue one of the veterans in Ryan Haggerty or Andreas Martinsen, but you aren’t taking Sam Miletic, Thomas DiPauli or Anthony Angello out of the lineup unless one gets called up or injured, another veteran returns (Czuczman, but then you need to get creative) and if Stefan Noesen returns forget about it.

What I always tell folks in situations like this (one guy over another) is ask yourself who has the NHL contract. Right now, it’s Jan Drozg, not Hawkins. Since we are, at our base, a developmental league for the NHL, it’s those types of players that get the nod over someone else. It may not be fair, it’s just how it works.

Now, if Hawkins continues to impress in Wheeling, the Penguins will have no choice but to make room for him in the lineup.

It seems as though WBS is keeping more players available/around than in previous years. Is this the case?
– John

When you trade away all the draft picks and the kitchen sink for winning two Stanley Cups in the span of three seasons, faces on the farm are going to look familiar, no matter how good or how bad the team is. All of the better players (Teddy Blueger, Jake Guentzel, Chad Ruhwedel, Zach Aston-Reese) move up and then you are left with the ‘AAAA’ players that sometimes go up but often return (Blandisi, Trotman, etc.)

Thank you to all who asked questions this time around. I like the once a month concept I think and this will definitely be back in a few weeks.

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