Chirps from Center Ice

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

Asked and Answered 1/7

Let’s open up the mailbag and jump into the questions this go around….

If you can name one player that has been consistent who would it be? Just about half way into the season, do you think they trade someone for a goal scoring forward or just stay put and let the young guys develop for next season?

– Rose

Niclas Almari’s name is one that is coming up as a guy who, in his first North American season, has really been consistent. However, he’s kind of tied to an anchor with Macoy Erkamps. Through the weekend, Almari has a 46% goals for percentage overall and a 52.58% at even strength. I have enjoyed watching him step into an increased role with the injuries to the veteran defensemen in David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman, but his numbers are being dragged down a bit by Erkamps who has a 36.17% / 44.74 overall and at even strength goals for percentage. Some of the holes in this team is lack of depth scoring and defense, and a lot of that shows above.

As far as a trade goes, I think it’s a good possibility you see Penguins Head Coach Mike Vellucci tinker with the lineup like he has been these past few weeks. Stripped down to it’s bare bones right now, it’s not a playoff team. But, once Warsofsky and Trotman get healthy and Kevin Czuczman returns from his Pittsburgh stint, the defense will beef up and guys like Matt Abt, Macoy Erkamps and Michael Kim will be out of the lineup and depending on the health of the forwards in Pittsburgh you’ll eventually get Joseph Blandisi and Andrew Agozzino back. Working in a trade to help bolster the lineup even more isn’t out of the equation by any means.

Just my opinion, although I’m sure others have a similar opinion, would like to see what you have to say about it so here goes… Casey goes from goaltender of the month in November stopping almost everything in his path, to in the majority of December and so far January can’t seem to A. Respond when a goal is scored against him and B. Has essentially been outright awful giving up 4,5,6 goals a game, at what point does Vellucci give him a little break to regroup mentally, because in my mind you can win games scoring 2,3,4 goals in this league but if your running a goalie out who can’t stop anything you just won’t win. Just curious to see what anyone may like to add to this.

– Jeff

Tough spot. Casey DeSmith should be in the NHL but because of the play of Tristan Jarry, he’s here collecting his NHL salary living out of a hotel. I think right now he would have to be god awful in goal in order to be replaced by Dustin Tokarski as the full time starter. Half of your defensive corps are hurt or on recall, Stefan Noesen is gone, Anthony Angello accounted for more than 75% of the offense in the past month. Are they a better team playing in front of Dustin Tokarski? I think Friday’s result against Hershey answered that question pretty resoundly. The team has a lot of problems right now, but the staff you have playing goaltender isn’t one of them.

Between Michael Kim and Matt Abt as the #5 and #6 on D when anyone is called up or injured clearly doesn’t seem to be cutting it most nights, why do we think those seem to be our best options? Siebenaler has been great all season in the Wheel, and I get at the time we had a Vet issue but now that we do not, I’m sure Reid McNeill is available I mean even Aaron Titcomb would be worth a shot, just curious to see what anyone else may think. Because I can’t seem to wrap my head around why we aren’t trying anything different, Vellucci is supposed to be a mastermind behind the bench and [I don’t know] how he likes running Kim out there every night.

– Jeff

Right now (as of January 6) the Wheeling Nailers have played 34 games and have a 16-14-4 record with a 101-115 / -14 goal differential. The Penguins have a 17-14-3-2 record and a 95-111 / -16 goal differential. I don’t see much difference there as far as a numbers or goal prevention model to advocate recalling a guy from Wheeling for the sake of at this point. I would be game to have McNeill come back in on a PTO, but the issue there is he’s found work already playing in Denmark.

I think Vellucci is simply riding the storm out now and is hoping that Warsofsky and some combination of Trotman or Czuczman is ready by next week’s Texas trip. Playing three divisional home games this week is a bit of a gamble based off of the teams recent run of form, but I think it may be too soon to hit the panic button just yet.

What do you think the team could do to increase attendance?

– Josh

I mean the Friday ticket deals for $15 with $2 beers till 7:30 seem like a great deal to me. I think they are doing all they reasonably can to help with attendance, only nine weekday games this year, two on Sundays and the rest are Saturday and Sunday. Short of giving tickets away for free, I really don’t know what more they can do. If people aren’t interested then you could give tickets away for free and the building still be half empty. I don’t listen to terrestrial radio at all around here so I don’t know how much of the team exposure is out there on the radio airwaves. Attendance was good these past Saturday’s with the lower bowl close to capacity. I think the days of sellouts are long gone. There will always be interest, but waiting until May of 2019 to announce an arena extension probably drove people with faint interest in a season ticket package away in early March or April. We’ll have to see how it rebounds for next year.

Why didn’t they wear the Spongebob jerseys Saturday?

– Todd

From what I gathered, the acquisition of Cole Cassels threw a monkey wrench in the whole deal. Because they couldn’t come up with a number and name plate for him in time, they scrapped the whole concept of the specialty jerseys as game worns altogether and just ran the in arena promotions and the silent auction on the concourse.

Personally, I think they would have looked ridiculous in cartoon character jerseys meant for kids. But, the proceeds of the whole idea were for kids, so who am I to say as someone with no kids.

I know it’s kind of a broad question, but do we know what this team “is” yet? It’s January, but I can’t find an ounce of personality in this team. Does the returning D-corp do anything to bolster their play? On a side note, is Ben Sexton the new Beau Bennett?

– Mike

I think it is kind of hard to identify a personality of a team whose roster is in flux so much night after night. At the start of the season, it was a veteran problem where you never knew who was in over another. Also, some of the veterans who departed just weren’t any good other than just a dime a dozen field filler role player which every team has. Now, it’s less because it’s a bare bones staff of players in a slog of a schedule that you are trying to fight out of.

Funny that you mention no personality because as I am sitting here thinking of all the characters that have gone through here, I remember guys like Ben Lovejoy, Dennis Bonvie, Paul Bissonnette, Steve MacIntyre, Patrick McGrath and others who, no matter what their skill level was, gave it their all on a nightly basis. Also, of those players mentioned nearly everyone fought, and fighting is something they are stripping away from the game. Listen next time you are at a game at the chatter around you whenever there is a dust up or pushing and shoving. The fans want fighting, they want something to cheer for and they want to be entertained. You aren’t getting that with what they are trying to do to ban fighting and in some degree to answer Josh’s question above, that’s why people stop coming.

To your other point, certainly getting the services of Zach Trotman, David Warsofsky and Kevin Czuczman reinserted back into the lineup will help the Penguins overall. I think that goes without saying.

Finally, I agree with you that it would be fair to ask just what the hell is up with Ben Sexton. A player is useless when he’s always hurt. You aren’t “week to week” when you haven’t played a single game all season, and we are in mid-January now. If he’s out, just say he’s out. He’s had no impact, so it’s not like he’s missed at all.

Hi – who awards the stars of the game and what is the deciding factor for a player to receive that award? Thanks!!

– Marilyn J

I had someone named Jean ask the same question in this mailbag also. The off ice guys award the stars of the game in Wilkes-Barre. I always used to think it was press row that did it but as someone who has been in the press box for games in the building, they do not. I think it is off ice guys pretty much in every AHL building except for Hershey, and the only reason I know that is because I saw someone hand Tim Leone, the now retired, long time beat writer for the Bears, a three stars slip once. That said, I don’t know if they do it there like that anymore either.

As for decisive factors, my guess is the player would have had to have a significant impact in the game in some form or fashion. Game winning goals, first goals, monumental points, a shutout, hat tricks, that sort of stuff.

Good stuff this week. Hopefully, they turn it around here in the near future and are a playoff team by the all star break.

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