Chirps from Center Ice

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

Revisiting Predictions…

I made these predictions at the start of the season and said at the time that I wanted to come back in April to see how wrong I was. Well here I am! Let’s jump right in…

Coachella Valley Firebirds

What I said: The Leagues newest team playing in the bloated, ten team Pacific Division and won’t play an actual home game until December. Should have some names fairly familiar to the Penguins as Seattle’s AHL players were with Charlotte in a split affiliation last year. Dan Bylsma is the coach, a name really familiar here, so who knows how good they can be.

What actually happened: They ended up being really good. Dan Bylsma can coach. If not for being bested by the remarkable run that Calgary put forth all season, Coachella Valley would be the Pacific’s best team.

Calgary Wranglers

What I said: Moved from Stockton to Calgary. Are a really good, deep team who pushed eventual winner Chicago in the Calder Cup Playoffs last year. Should, hypothetically, pick up where they left off and contend again this season.

What actually happened: I nailed it. League’s best team. Tore through opponents. One of a few Calder Cup contender favorites.

Colorado Eagles

What I said: Surprisingly (or maybe not so) stayed put in the Pacific Division and didn’t (like I expected) move to the Central Division, where I think they would have a better shot at (conceivably) winning the division, because I don’t see it happening to them this year in the Pacific.

What actually happened: Colorado’s 90 points would have put them second in the Central, but they needed up finishing third in the Pacific playing second fiddle to Coachella Valley and Calgary all season long. So another one I will chalk up to being semi-correct.

Tucson Roadrunners

What I said: The other team I was expecting to jump with Colorado over to the Central, was one of the eight teams to miss playoffs so it’s been a long summer for them. Only way is up, but the Pacific is a vipers pit, so good luck.

What actually happened: The Roadrunners made playoffs, but really because they played better than sorry San Diego and mercurial Henderson. Pacific is still a vipers pit, Tucson is a young team, I don’t expect them to stick around long in playoffs, but it’s a step in the right direction for this once directionless franchise.

San Jose Barracuda

What I said: Have a brand new arena that is very, very nice, at least from the pictures and stories I have read on it. Are the 2024 All Star hosts. Still projected to be mediocre to bad, but at least it’s sunny all the time in San Jose and rarely rains.

What actually happened: I think it rained more in San Jose then it did in Wilkes-Barre, and San Jose is mediocre at best and, like Tucson, played the better of San Diego / Henderson but still missed playoffs.

Ontario Reign

What I said: Will probably contend with Calgary or some other surprise team in the Pacific for the division crown. With healthy doses of Tucson, San Jose and an unknown Coachella Valley side, it’s easy to see why.

What actually happened: The Reign did not surprise. They never contended with Calgary. I think they lost like eight games in a row or something in late March / early April. They made playoffs comfortably, though.

San Diego Gulls

What I said: Retooled with some decent signings in the offseason and have sure fire AHL Hall of Fame head coach Roy Sommer running things this season. Don’t expect the Gulls to be a doormat for other teams this season. We may have a dark horse team on our hands here.

What actually happened: My biggest miss. Gulls were out of it almost immediately, played cellar dwellers all season, got murdered with call ups and just ran over. Leagues worst team. Roy Sommer may be a Hall of Fame Coach, but he’s not a magician. Sommer also announced his retirement.

Henderson Silver Knights

What I said: Quiet offseason which, by all accounts is probably fine but other teams improved, reloaded or flat out got better. Will it be enough?

What actually happened: It was not, in fact, enough. Team never played like a contender should, and missed playoffs. 

Bakersfield Condors

What I said: See Henderson above, of the five California teams aren’t the first best, probably aren’t the second best and likely not the third. Somewhere in between fourth and last, likely. Could be a long year.

What actually happened: They were OK. Didn’t play as good as good as Coachella Valley and Calgary, or as bad as San Jose and San Diego. Actually finished fifth, or middle in the road.

Abbotsford Canucks

What I said: Lotsa trips to Calgary are on deck for the Canucks, which probably means lots of L’s. Couple that with a super division that is the 10 team, mega chungus Pacific Division, and you are probably clinching a playoff berth on the final weekend of the regular season this year.

What actually happened: Ended up going 4-5-2-1 against the Wranglers this season. Abbotsford comfortably clinched a playoff spot well before the final weekend of the season. Are a generally solid AHL hockey team.

Predicted order of finish:

1) Ontario
2) Colorado
3) Calgary
4) San Diego
5) Bakersfield
6) Coachella Valley
7) Abbotsford

8) San Jose
9) Tucson
10) Henderson

Actual order of finish:

1) Calgary
2) Coachella Valley
3) Colorado
4) Abbotsford
5) Bakersfield
6) Ontario
7) Tucson

8) San Jose
9) Henderson
10) San Diego

Chicago Wolves

What I said: I don’t think they repeat. They got raided in the offseason, but will probably still contend.

What actually happened: Missed playoffs entirely, never really contended, got so mad at the current state of things they are going Independent of an NHL team next year leaving Carolina without a full time AHL team next season.

Iowa Wild

What I said: Missed playoffs last year but I don’t see that happening this season. Could play dark horse but Bill Guerin is still GM of Minnesota, so maybe you can manage to mess up a free lunch after all.

What actually happened: They made playoffs on the final weekend of the season. Bill Guerin, apparently, isn’t the worst GM in the NHL.

Grand Rapids Griffins

What I said: Didn’t make playoffs last year and by all accounts, could repeat that impressive feat again this season.

What actually happened: Chalk up another correct prediction. Griffins finished last in their division and are a shell of what they once were, just like someone we know…

Manitoba Moose

What I said: Just have to play better than the two worst teams in the division and they are a playoff team. Simple, right? I think they are better than Grand Rapids and marginally better than say Rockford and Texas, so they could be a safe bet to return to the playoffs again.

What actually happened: Well, the Moose weren’t better than Texas, who won the division on the final weekend of the season but were better then Rockford and clinched playoffs well before the end of the season.

Milwaukee Admirals

What I said: Had a pretty solid offseason signings wise. Primed to make a run in the Central, considering other teams lack of bigger name signings and some teams getting picked apart in the summer.

What actually happened: They did make a run, kept Texas honest and finished second in the Central. Chalk up another correct prediction.

Rockford IceHogs

What I said: Should improve over last season and are probably a better dark horse candidate than Iowa.

What actually happened: Finished on par essentially with Iowa and like Iowa, clinched a playoff berth on the final weekend of the season. Was not a dark horse team, though.

Texas Stars

What I said: Should show better than their fifth place finish last season. I have them as a top three team, mixed in somewhere with Milwaukee and one of either Rockford or Chicago.

What actually happened: They won the Central. Milwaukee finished second, but Rockford and Chicago did not finish third.

Predicted order of finish:

1) Milwaukee
2) Chicago
3) Texas
4) Rockford
5) Iowa

6) Manitoba
7) Grand Rapids

Actual order of finish:

1) Texas
2) Milwaukee
3) Manitoba
4) Iowa
5) Rockford

6) Chicago
7) Grand Rapids

Rochester Americans

What I said: Bland offseason for Rochester. Should be OK though, just not a division contender.

What actually happened: Another correct prediction. The Americans never challenged Toronto (no one did, really) for the division title and comfortably made playoffs with time to spare in the season.

Belleville Senators

What I said: Decent upgrades for Belleville. Could contend as the dark horse divisional winner. We remain Troy Mann stans on this blog.

What actually happened: Troy Mann got fired mid season for selling secrets to the opponents. Belleville was a basement dwelling team that went on a run but still missed playoffs because they rostered 50+ players and it’s hard to find consistency with that much turn around. 

Cleveland Monsters

What I said: Going through the lists of who got who in this division, there isn’t a lot of there there with a lot of teams. Cleveland is one of them. Could either be a boom or bust, and with the Monsters putrid showing last year, leaning towards the latter.

What actually happened: Well, it wasn’t boom and since the Monsters missed playoffs, it was a bit of a bust. Parent Columbus is in tank mode and that poop runs downhill, sadly.

Toronto Marlies

What I said: I mean I don’t think that the Marlies will miss the playoffs this upcoming season, like they did last year. Decent enough signings to push them to a possible top five finish.

What actually happened: Won the division running away and is a solid team primed to make a deep run in the Calder Cup Playoffs. 

Syracuse Crunch

What I said: I like their upgrades at all positions. They will be a hard team to play against, as history has shown.

What actually happened: Bit of an up and down for the Crunch, but a solid top three showing is what you want in a seven team division. They were in fact a solid team to play against.

Utica Comets

What I said: I see them as a playoff team, just not one which tore through opponents and won the division going away type like last year.

What actually happened: Needed final weekend of the season to clinch a spot, but still made it. I guess I can mark this as correct?

Laval Rocket

What I said: Had them pegged as the division winner last year and that didn’t pan out but they were the last North Division team standing last year so what the hell and let’s pick them to finish first again this season.

What actually happened: Needed final weekend of the season to clinch, made it as a five seed. I don’t think this year they end up as the last North Division team standing.

Predicted order of finish:

1) Laval
2) Syracuse
3) Utica
4) Belleville
5) Rochester

6) Toronto
7) Cleveland

Actual order of finish: 

1) Toronto
2) Syracuse
3) Rochester
4) Utica
5) Laval

6) Cleveland
7) Belleville

Hershey Bears

What I said: Loaded up like the Bears always do. And not just big names, but really solid depth signings when the inevitable call ups happen. I think they contend for the division this season.

What actually happened: The Bears did, in fact, contend for a division title. Could contend again for a Calder Cup. I like their chances, but not say as much as I do other teams.

Charlotte Checkers

What I said: Now on an island all their own with Seattle packing up shop and moving their AHLers to sunny California. Sole Florida affiliate now. I think they are a playoff team, but the confidence level on this call is low.

What actually happened: Finished third in the division. Were a consistent team all season long, but never pushed the top two teams. Were never not a non-playoff team.

Springfield Thunderbirds

What I said: Calder Cup runners up got raided a bit with Sam Anas defecting for in division rival Hershey, though should still contend. We waited for the bottom to fall out last season and that never came. Does it this season?

What actually happened: No. Gone are the days of a half a good Springfield team. St. Louis has a good working relationship with Springfield, and the Thunderbirds are becoming a perennial contender. However, I don’t think they go as deep as they did last season, but who knows. Springfield surprises me.

Hartford Wolf Pack

What I said: The most improved team in the division and I think in the entire league. Big off-season get in CJ Smith from Chicago, if he doesn’t stick with the Rangers he’s a point machine at this level. Wolf Pack are a dark horse division contender and a team who will do a complete 180 and should compete all season long.

What actually happened: Smith played in just 21 games for Hartford. The Wolf Pack didn’t play as a dark horse all season long but came on as a dark horse at the end of the season, getting to a playoff spot over Wilkes-Barre and Bridgeport and could make a deep run.

Bridgeport Islanders

What I said: Shocked us all as the 6 seed ousting the 3 seed Providence Bruins in last years playoffs. I think the Islanders are a solid choice to show better than the 6 seed again this season, but when you play division heavies like Hartford and Springfield 100 times in a season and sprinkle in visits with perennial heavies like Hershey and the Pens, trouble can befell Bridgeport in a hurry.

What actually happened: Another big miss. Sound Tigers ran out of steam, was passed by Hartford and embarrassed by Wilkes-Barre 8-2 on April 8 which eliminated them for good.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms

What I said: Laughingstock of the division last season with all that firepower. How in the hell did Ian Laperriere keep his job? Phantoms are back to give it another go, retooled. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or will they contend in the division like we all expected them to last year?

What actually happened: Phantoms didn’t contend for a division title, but did get things straight and are a playoff team. I’d consider that an improvement.

Providence Bruins

What I said: So as I am putting these things together I am going on the individual team websites to see who signed. Uh, I think the Bruins are still on summer vacation (kinda like me) because all I saw was one signing and that’s all. Boston signed a bunch of guys but they either either draftees or have been with the team prior. So that probably means that the P-Bruins win the Calder Cup this year.

What actually happened: Bruins were contenders all season long. They are heavy favorites on this blog to make it to the Calder Cup Finals this season. More on their prospects tomorrow.

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

What I said: Do I think they improved? Slightly. Do I think they got worse? Slightly. J.D. Forrest took this team to a 4 seed last season and they ousted their biggest rival in Hershey. The remaining core for the most part is there. I think they upgraded slightly in goal (Tokarski) on defense (resigning Reinke, inking Jon Lizotte and Xavier Ouellet) but downgraded in the grit / toughness department with the loss of Jordy Bellerive to Lehigh Valley. Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare should be around for the most part and you hope they don’t hit a sophomore slump. Will give Hershey fits and what I really want to see is how they stack up against Hartford out of the gate on Oct 22.

What actually happened: They went undefeated in October, were the last team to lose in regulation. Tokarski wasn’t an upgrade, Reinke was a bit of a disappointment and Ouellet got hurt and missed half the season. Légaré did hit a sophomore slump but the Pens did give Hershey fits. Were a massive disappointment in a regrettably forgetful year.

Predicted order of finish: 

1) Hartford
2) Hershey
3) Springfield
4) Wilkes-Barre
5) Bridgeport
6) Charlotte

7) Lehigh Valley
8) Providence

Actual order of finish:

1) Providence
2) Hershey
3) Charlotte
4) Springfield
5) Hartford
6) Lehigh Valley

7) Bridgeport
8) Wilkes-Barre / Scranton

Better luck next year on these predictions, I guess. I’ll be back tomorrow with more, making my Calder Cup Playoffs predictions all the way to a champion crowned in June.

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