Chirps from Center Ice

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

Wednesday Notes 5/15

Some news for Wednesday.

First, if you are a Penguins Season Ticket Holder (erm, Member) of any kind, check your e-mail. The Penguins have a new online account manager you can use to manage your tickets. For me, as a five year Member, my invoice for my seats are there on their portal. I can opt to pay now or wait for the actual invoice to come in the mail next week. I spoke to my ticket rep Brandon this morning about it. Here’s the page which has a little booklet on how to sign up for the portal. The Penguins have to have your e-mail in order for you to have access to the portal as that’s the only way to log in. It’s housed through Ticketmaster, so if you are comfortable giving your credit or bank card through there, you can get started.

Second, Anthony Peters is the first name off of the 2019 Offseason Moves List (tab above) as he has signed with the Isterholn Roosters in the DEL. Tyler had some nice words about Peters you can read here.

Peters, as a person, was probably a hell of a guy. Let’s just leave it there.

Third, the Penguins signed Kasper Bjorkvist to his two year entry level deal. Some words on him…

And then Jonathan had a thread that starts here:

I would guess that Bjorkvist, provided his shoulder doesn’t hinder him this summer, pushes for a good look in Pittsburgh before he’s sent here to tear up the AHL for a little bit before going up for good. Put him on a Jake Guentzel (his last season here) trajectory vs. a Teddy Blueger (overripened here) one, meaning that Bjorkvist is here for two months, maybe three, before going up for good in January or February 2020.

Or he could get a whole season here with a few looks here and there in the NHL. Who knows. This is professional hockey now. They aren’t kids anymore.

Finally, the Buffalo Sabres have their new head coach and it’s not Clark Donatelli. There had been some scuttlebutt recently due to the Jason Botterill connection that Donatelli was a candidate for the position based off of an article I saw from The Athletic Buffalo a while ago.

I think that’s everything. I signed up for Elite Prospects Premium to help cobble together the AHL Big Board this summer and to stay on top of the signings before during and after the free agent frenzy. I also found a way to easily (well, it takes some work) to port all the names into a spreadsheet to work off of in the build. Cobbling together all the names is the hardest part. Work smart, not hard.

More as it comes, as always. I didn’t see anything on a schedule matrix of opponents and there wasn’t anything from the League on division changes out of their Meetings last week, so you didn’t miss anything on that front. If I see something, it will run here.

Oh, Charlotte, Toronto, Chicago and San Diego are your final four. I still like the Checkers and Wolves chances of advancing to the Finals.

Have a great rest of the week.

Done Deal With Details 5/8

On Wednesday the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority held their monthly meeting on the second Wednesday of the month and in it they checked off one of their to-do’s on their plate for well over a year.

They voted unanimously to approve a 10 year contract lease extension between themselves and the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

Here are some of the highlights:

– New lease agreement kicks in with the Penguins when the current one expires. It will run from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2029.

– SMG will continue to manage the facility for that same time frame. Their food vendor Savor, remains as well.

– Will Beekman takes over for Brian Sipe who is leaving for Rupp Arena in Kentucky as the new Arena GM. Beekman starts Monday. He used to work for the Penguins from 2002 to 2008 before taking over as executive director of the Kirby Center.

– The Arena / Authority consider the Penguins a partner and not a tenant.

– The Penguins are committing nearly $900,000 towards improving the locker rooms and other, “back of house” areas.

– The Arena will be installing ribbon boards.

– They will also be installing brand new LED lighting.

– The Arena is committing $1 Million towards the building which will be achieved / concluded by the fifth year of the lease. These improvements would include a new team store inside the Arena and possibly a lounge area.

– The WiFi will be improved / upgraded. This has been known for a few months now.

– Penguins CEO Jeff Barrett took two questions. One of them was on ticket prices and the possibility of increases as a result of the new deal. Barrett confirmed that there would be no ticket increases as a result of the new ten year lease.

Those are the particulars, filled in with the Pens release with some finer details and quotes.

The Pens did a Periscope of the press conference that you can watch here:

If I see anything else from Tyler or otherwise, I’ll drop in and make the appropriate edits, but those were the particulars worth mentioning. There wasn’t anything said about new Zambonis or any mumbo jumbo about transferal of who owns the team to who or if there are opt outs in the contract.

More as it comes. Probably the schedule matrix will be the next line of notable news once the Spring meetings conclude in Chicago later this week.

Extension Announced in Principle 5/6

“Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – Mark Twain

In a joint statement made around noon on Monday, the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority and the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins jointly announced this morning that both parties have reached an agreement in principle on a 10-year contract lease extension to keep the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League in Northeast Pennsylvania. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed, with that coming Wednesday, May 8 at a press conference after the regularly scheduled Authority meeting.

If you have been following the story since the beginning, I am sure you have heard and maybe even shared some rumors as to the fate of the team. I sure have heard a lot. In part and in some form or fashion, I’ve heard the following:

– The New Jersey Devils are coming in and placing their AHL affiliate here. This one came up a lot during the season. They allegedly toured the Arena a couple times.

– Clark Donatelli’s maid works with someone who has tickets to games and he came home mad one day that he had to pull his kids out of school and move them back to Wheeling, West Virginia because the teams higher ups told him they were moving the franchise to Wheeling.

That was a good one.

– The Penguins were moving the AHL affiliate either to Johnstown, the Penguins practice facility, Wheeling, West Virginia, Youngstown, Ohio, State College, Altoona or some other ridiculous outlier territory.

I heard my fair share.

Someone in Pittsburgh told one of our Booster Club members that the team was moving. It was heard either in a restaurant, a parking lot, at the actual game, in the street, the hotel or otherwise. Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan can see one of his players go down in the first ten minutes of a game and when asked two hours later what the status of said player is he would respond, “I don’t know.” – so you are telling me and want me to believe that a team that is so tight lipped about injuries is somehow going to let leak what the status is with its top farm team and actual contract negotiations?

P.T. Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every minute.

Best one I saw that caused a lot of stir was that because the team store out in Pittsburgh wasn’t selling Wilkes-Barre merchandise was a sure sign that the team was pulling out. I still laugh at that one, as if the part time associate selling pins and stickers really has a pulse on top level, behind closed doors, non-disclosured negotiations.

As. If.

I could go on and I can pile on, but the fact of the matter is this. No one has it better than we do. No one. There is going to be hockey in the 2019-2020 season here in Wilkes-Barre and beyond, foreseeable for the next ten seasons.

I didn’t believe a thing anyone one told me regarding negotiations because a) Hello! Non-disclosure! And, b) What they were slinging at me was easily discounted when you apply common sense. The cities presented didn’t make any sense. Wheeling’s building is 40 years old and the one in Johnstown is older than that, and explain to me again how you can play AHL hockey in Altoona next year when there’s no building to play in again? Or did you mean Erie? Or was it Altoona? Oil City? What a pity….

Exactly.

I’ll leave you with this. It’s a song from the most successful all female rock band of all time, The Go-Go’s. It’s the song, “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and it’s kind of apropos when you think of it, because you didn’t hear a peep, chirp or single squeak from anyone on, associated with or employed by 40 Coal Street, which is where the Wilkes-Barre / Penguins offices are located regarding lease negotiations. I listened to and consumed pretty much every product that the team put out this season in print, audio, visual or otherwise. No one said a thing, leaked a thing or led on to anything. Their lips were indeed sealed.

Meanwhile, the noise. The Devils are moving in, the team is moving, because of this, means that, or whatever. I took it all in. I read the nonsense, heard the rumors. I applied logic. Give this a spin, read the lyrics, and think of the last six to nine months and all the ridiculousness you’ve heard.

We are here. We are staying here. No one has it better than we do. And now, to play me off my soapbox, ladies and gentlemen, The Go-Go’s……..

Can you hear them?
They talk about us
Telling lies
Well, that’s no surprise

Can you see them?
See right through them
They have no shield
No secrets to reveal

It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed

There’s a weapon
That we must use
In our defense
Silence reveals

When you look at them
Look right through them
That’s when they’ll disappear
That’s when we’ll be feared

It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed

Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway
Our lips are sealed

Hush, my darling
Don’t you cry
Quiet, angel
Forget their lies

Can you hear them?
They talk about us
Telling lies
Well, that’s no surprise

Can you see them?
See right through them
They have no shield
No secrets to reveal

It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed

Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway

Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed

Di Pauli Re-Signs 4/30

Some more signing news as it was announced Tuesday that Thomas Di Pauli re-signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Di Pauli, considered “week to week” since going down with an injury in late December against Bridgeport is the second signing made by Pittsburgh to set up their farm team in 2019-20* in the wake of Joseph Cramarossa signing last week.

Di Pauli has battled injuries for most of his professional career. He was limited to just 29 games last year. He’s a decent penalty killer and always scores against Hershey it seems. His trajectory was pointing upward until his season was derailed from whatever his “week to week” injury was that cost him the final 15 weeks of the season.

The gamble is that the injury issues are behind the Notre Dame product and he’ll shape out to be one of the better players on the AHL roster for next season. It’s a low risk, potential for high reward signing.

* – still no announcement on a lease agreement for 2019-2020 and beyond between the Penguins and the Arena Authority. It is going to be May 1 on Wednesday. The next arena meeting is May 8. Are we going to get more, “we are negotiating” and “the sides are close” or is this really going to drag out yet another month coming into the month of June and the 11th hour when the lease expires on June 30? I am honestly tired of waiting, am about all out of patience and would like some closure on this in some form or fashion as it has been percolating since the season began in October 2018. 

We’ll wait as we have been, non-disclosures be damned, but as Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.”

Cramarossa Re-Signs 4/27

The Pittsburgh Penguins first order of business in their offseason was a re-signing for their AHL affiliate* for the 2019-20 season.

Joseph Cramarossa re-signed for 2019-20.

16 points for the veteran forward in Wilkes-Barre in 2018-19. The signing doesn’t jump off the page to me and I let my opinion known on Twitter on Friday when the unofficial news started breaking.

Quickly, I was told that Cramarossa was one of the Penguins best penalty killers. A penalty kill that finished in the bottom third of the AHL overall last season (26th), but a solid penalty killer nevertheless.

I suppose.

A fair point. I don’t suppose that anyone necessarily stood out from the others on a team that finished sixth in an eight team division and missed the playoffs for the first time in over fifteen years.

It is what it is.

Calder Cup Playoffs are continuing. Charlotte beat Providence in four games in the only series I got right in my predictions from last week. The rest? Yuck.

* – no announcement on a lease yet. League normally puts out a release on alignment changes in the second week of May and teams start releasing their schedule matrices around the same time (May 11 last year and the year before) so you would think that we are up against the gun here on an announcement. That will probably be the next blog post. Hopefully. Stay tuned.

2018-19 Calder Cup Playoffs Preview and Predictions

Well, the Penguins aren’t involved in this years playoffs, but that isn’t going to stop me from taking a stab at making some predictions as it pertains to the 2018-19 Calder Cup Playoffs.

But instead of going round by round, I am giving you the entire playoff preview from round one all the way to the Calder Cup Finals. Maybe I will come back sometime in June to see how right or how wrong I was. Here goes…

Eastern Conference

Charlotte vs. Providence: The Penguins would have faced off against the Checkers had they managed to usurp the Bruins. They didn’t, and it’s the Bruins that get the four spot. I can see Providence making it a game here and there, but the Checkers have been the overall best team in the AHL for months. Charlotte in four.

Bridgeport vs. Hershey: Calling the upset here. Bridgeport has at times struggled, but were better than the Bears in seeding for the sole reason that the Bears started the season in a hole with the way they were playing. Playoffs is all about momentum and Hershey certainly has it. They will, of course, have to steal at least one in Bridgeport which I think they will do. Hershey in five.

Rochester vs. Toronto: It’s hard for a team that won it last year to repeat the next season. I don’t see Toronto repeating no matter which way you look at it starting in the Western Conference, Charlotte or Syracuse. So fate would have it that the Marlies give the Americans a bit of a scare, but do not advance. Rochester in five.

Syracuse vs. Cleveland: I don’t want to say this, but Syracuse I would say is probably the most vulnerable division winner facing off against a four seed. I don’t see the same in the Central as much as I see it here in the North, but don’t let that fool you with my pick here. Crunch advance, just not as easily as one would think. Syracuse in five.

Charlotte vs. Hershey: Charlotte keeps rolling, but the Bears make it tougher on them. I really think that the winner of this series is bolstered by whichever NHL parent team goes out of the playoffs first. Since the Capitals and Hurricanes are currently in battle with one another and the odds factor the Caps advancing, so too I with the Checkers getting past Hershey. Charlotte in six.

Syracuse vs. Rochester: This is going to be a heavyweight battle for the ages. Every game could go to overtime and it very well may be a war of attrition. It’s the biggest toss up series that you will see in my opinion. Syracuse in seven.

Charlotte vs. Syracuse: Checkers, already battle tested and at full staff after having Carolina go out, make short work of a tired and weary Crunch team that emptied the tank in a war against Rochester. Switch it if you want if you think it’s the Amerks advancing, but Charlotte obliterates whoever comes out of the North regardless. Checkers in five.

Western Conference

Chicago vs. Grand Rapids: The Wolves qualified early while Grand Rapids sat on a magic number of one for weeks. I could go reverse momentum and pick the upset, but the Wolves are stout and are not trapped here by a lifeless Griffins side coming in. Chicago in four.

Milwaukee vs. Iowa: Admirals managed to finish second in the division because they finished a point better than the two other qualifiers in Iowa here and Grand Rapids. Iowa was good all season, stumbled at the end and righted the course. It’s probably the toughest series to call given the fact that the Admirals haven’t lost in fourteen straight coming in, but I like the Wild’s chances here nevertheless. Iowa in five.

Bakersfield vs. Colorado: Condors went on a long winning streak, surged to the pinnacle of the Pacific and stayed there when San Jose stumbled. Colorado made playoffs in their maiden voyage in the AHL. If this is a seven game series, I think that the Eagles have a better chance of stealing a few in Bakersfield and advancing. But the Condors advance in this short series. Bakersfield in five.

San Jose vs. San Diego: I think this is probably the most interesting AHL coaching matchup in the entire first round with the Barracuda’s Roy Sommer vs. Dallas Eakins and the San Diego Gulls. Sommer gets the best of Eakins on the guise of a more experienced team. Barracuda in four.

Chicago vs. Iowa: Could shape up to be a great series, but the Wolves exploit the flaws Iowa exhibited in the final weeks of the season and advance. Wolves in five.

Bakersfield vs. San Jose: The dream season ends for the Condors but they go down swinging and make the Barracuda work hard to advance. Barracuda in seven.

Chicago vs. San Jose: This far out, it’s harder to predict just with the unknown of the Western Conference vs. having a pulse over here in the East. Could see either team advancing, but going with my gut and selecting Chicago in six.

Calder Cup Finals 

Charlotte vs. Chicago: So I went chalk and picked the top two teams in their respective conferences. You make the argument that the Western Conference was the tougher conference to play in given the fact that there were so many teams that were still in it on the final weekend. Hell, Manitoba won 39 games and didn’t make playoffs. That said, Charlotte carved up the East all season, but they didn’t see a team quite like the Wolves. Checkers steal game one or two at home, then Chicago wraps it up in Rosemont. Chicago in six.

That’s how I see it breaking. You?

AHL Power Rankings: Week 28

We have reached the end of the Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings for the season. Another year in the books, thanks to all who read.

The top 16 teams in this weeks Rankings are ranked in some form or fashion from 1-16. I have always done it that way. Also, the division champs are ranked 1-4. Again, I have always done it that way.

No doubt about the number one team, seemingly a constant in the Rankings here all season. Charlotte is the odds on favorite to win it all this year. Will they? Check back Wednesday to see how I predict the Calder Cup Playoffs.

1

Last Week: CHA 2 @ CLE 1, CHA @ CLE
Anything less than a Calder Cup for the league’s best team all season should be seen as a disappointment.

n/a

Playoffs?: Yes, vs. Providence
Record: 51-17-7-1

2

Last Week: LAV 1 @ SYR 5, RCH 3 @ SYR 4, SYR 3 @ UTI 4 (SO)
Race for the North Division title won by the Crunch. Now, can they close out the deal and win a Calder Cup? High odds, but a mangrove of really good teams to get through. Hey, if it were easy, we’d all be champions.

n/a

Playoffs?: Yes, vs. Cleveland
Record: 47-21-4-4

3

Last Week: CHI 1 @ IA 2 (OT), MTB 2 @ CHI 4, MTB 6 @ CHI 2
Odds on favorite to win the Calder Cup not named Charlotte? Possibly. Wolves were class of the Central in a moshpit of other teams that tripped over themselves just to get in.

+1

Playoffs?: Yes, vs. Grand Rapids
Record: 44-22-6-4

4

Last Week: ONT 3 @ BAK 6, BAK 3 @ STK 2
Should be a favorite to represent the West in the Calder Cup Finals, but spoiler, we don’t like their chances. More Wednesday on this.

+4

Playoffs?: Yes, vs. Colorado
Record: 42-21-3-2

5

Last Week: BNG 4 @ RCH 3 (OT), RCH 3 @ SYR 4, RCH 4 @ BEL 2
We can’t wait for Friday as that series with Toronto may be one of the more exciting series of the first round of the playoffs.

-2

Playoffs?: Yes, vs. Toronto
Record: 46-23-5-2

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