Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Just Rambling

Frenzy Eve

A couple of things to touch on before free agency begins Friday and the bedrock of a teams success starts building towards the Fall…

First, I am pinning the AHL Big Board to the top of the site so that it stays front and center for about a month and a handy reference tool to any that want to use it as free agency wears on. The changeover will be made tonight. You won’t notice anything other than the Big Board will be on the top of the site for the first month or so. Just scroll down to see the newer content.

Wilkes-Barre made a second signing this week, a kid by the name of Christian Hilbrich. A giant 6’7 forward that captained the Cornell Big Red last season. 27 goals and 21 assists in 111 collegiate games.

Pittsburgh, fresh off of winning a Stanley Cup about two weeks ago, opened their NHL Prospect Camp. The Skating on the Susquehanna blog, the team run WBS Penguins blog, has all the good stuff on local kids trying looking to make an impact, especially one from Kingston and more on Hilbrich’s signing.

Bookmark that blog and read it often.

Mattias Plachta went back to his German team, Adler Mannheim, and got a four year deal.

There was a goofy rumor about the Penguins breaking up with Wilkes-Barre and moving their affiliation to Hershey. Not only is that a nonsensical rumor this late in the season, it’s also an asinine thing to even assume. Wilkes-Barre will be playing as the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins until at least 2019. The Pittsburgh Penguins just won the Stanley Cup with a group of players developed in Wilkes-Barre. They got their coach from Wilkes-Barre too. Washington places their prospects in the oldest, most historic and decorated team in the American Hockey League which has led the 30 team league in attendance for years. The idea that Pittsburgh would want to uproot their affiliate, itself a shining star of its own right with the longest playoff record in the AHL, premier facilities and a passionate fanbase and place it someplace else, is nonsense. That Washington would even consider it is nonsense itself. You may not get along with the Bears fan sitting next to you at the game on Friday or that Penguins fan that is loud and obnoxious at the Bears game but trust me, it’s good for one another. This rivalry that we have is not only good for Hershey and Wilkes-Barre but Washington and Pittsburgh, playing competitive hockey in hostile environments 12 tines a year. It’s also good for the AHL, two healthy, passionate fanbases drive revenue and all that other stuff that makes this whole developmental thing successful.

240 words on a bunch of nonsense. Anything for clicks these days, I assume. File this one under the rarely used, “Just Rambling” blog category.

Anyway.

#57 is off of the Big Board, as Zach Sill has re-signed with the Washington Capitals.

The fun starts noon Friday. I will have a blog Friday night recapping the days events and how they affect the Penguins, Bears, Phantoms, Wolf Pack, Sound Tigers, Bruins and Thunderbirds. This weekend I am going to New York City, so I will do my best to update the Big Board and blog about any additions to any of the teams in the AHL’s Atlantic Division as time allows. Probably in the evening hours. Just keep it locked here this weekend.

Oh, and out the door, I don’t know if you heard the news but Scott Stuccio announced this week that effective this past Monday his services with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts (the corporate name of the group that runs the Bears) has been eliminated. Suffice to say, this news was shocking. Scott is a top notch broadcaster and better individual. Rest assured that he will not be unemployed for very long. Some other team will snatch him up sooner rather than later.

Back tomorrow with a recap of Free Agency Day 1.

Murray Out for All-Stars, Simon?

Had a feeling Wednesday night when I was hammering out the blog post after hearing on the postgame show that Dominik Simon left the game in the second period with injury and didn’t return that I would be blogging today.

But not for what you think. Well, at least not yet.

It was announced on Thursday that Matt Murray will not be making the trip to Syracuse to participate in the AHL All-Star Classic this weekend. He will be replaced by Portland’s Mike McKenna.

Murray has a minor lower body injury and did not practice today.

On the status of Dominik Simon, he too did not practice today. Penguins Head Coach Clark Donatelli listed Simon, as well as Sahir Gill as “day to day.”

I have a pretty good idea of where and how Matt Murray was injured. From the first period Sunday in Providence.

They initially called it a “maintenance day” today but Seth confirmed that Murray has a minor injury and is expected back after the All-Star game. The Penguins play Lehigh Valley in a home and home this Friday and Saturday before taking back to the ice next Friday in Springfield.

Another angle brought up was that assuming that Murray had started one of these two games this weekend, that’s five games in the last fourteen games for Murray. Perhaps the ruling from Pittsburgh was to allow him to rest.

Personally, I do not think that Murray is injured to a point to raise alarm. I watched carefully after Murray was slow to get up Sunday to see if he received any medical assistance. He didn’t. He played 40 plus minutes Sunday and started Wednesday and played close to sixty minutes.

If the Penguins as a whole want to make a run for a Calder Cup they will need Murray, and Simon at or as close to 100%.

Seth had more in depth analysis with quotes on his blog.

Now onto the subject of Dominik Simon. I expect him to miss the All-Star Classic also. The question then becomes with him out, Murray and Pouliot already ruled out, who do the Penguins send?

My initial thought would be any combination of Conor Sheary or Scott Wilson. But, they may have vacations planned already with the mandatory break. Families involved and such. Who knows. My guess is that if or when Simon is going to be ruled out it will come Friday. Again, who knows.

Gameday setup for Lehigh Valley will be here Friday at 3.

AHL Rule Changes, A Commentary

The AHL confirmed today what was long rumored for months. The five teams that are playing in California will play 68 games in the 2015-16 season while the other 25 teams in the 30 team league will play 76 games.

The two teams in the same division as the “California Five” which consist of San Diego (Anaheim affiliate) Bakersfield (Edmonton) Ontario (Los Angeles) San Jose (San Jose) and Stockton (Calgary) are Texas (Dallas) and San Antonio (Colorado) These Texas teams will play 76 games, while their divisional counterparts play eight fewer games.

The AHL, in an effort to somehow make things fair, indicated in their release today that qualification for playoffs will be based off of points percentage (points earned divided by points available ) vs. actual points for wins, losses or overtime or shootout losses.

For the 25 teams that are playing 76 games, it’s season ending points divided by 152. For the California Five, it’s season ending points divided by 136.

Say San Antonio and Bakersfield are in a battle for a playoff spot. They have an identical 88 points. But, based off of points percentage, San Antonio trails Bakersfield by .068 percentage points with a .579 points percentage vs. Bakersfield’s .647.

You may look at that and say that is not much of a deficit. But consider this. San Antonio plays the next night and loses in a shootout. They get a loser point, bringing their total points up to 89, one more point than divisional rival Bakersfield. Yet they still trail the Condors in points percentage by .061 points with a .586 points percentage.

Oh, by the way, the crossover is back. There are two conferences, with two divisions per conference. In each conference there are eight teams in a division and seven teams in the other. If the fifth place team in the division with eight teams has a higher points percentage than the fourth place team in the division with seven teams, they get the playoff spot over the fourth place team in the division with eight teams.

So the potential exists that San Antonio or Texas could lose out in a playoff battle to a team in the Central Division, a division that will have all teams play 76 games, because of points percentage.

It isn’t fair.

It isn’t fair because San Antonio or Texas is relegated to fourth place in their division with five other teams playing less games based off of points percentages. It was calculated that a win for a California Five team is worth 1.47% in the standings as opposed to 1.32% for the 25 other teams in the AHL, San Antonio and Texas included.

Play less games, your wins count more.

Nope, not fair.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

How do the scoring races get decided? What about the veteran rule? (320 pro games) Salaries? Per diems? Less games mean less travel, less travel means less wear and tear on a California Five body vs. the wars waged in Wilkes-Barre, Hershey, Lehigh Valley and Binghamton or anywhere else not domiciled in the Golden State. How do you collectively bargain all of this?

The reality is that the situation is still in flux. Nothing has been announced yet regarding a collective bargaining agreement for next year. What I mentioned in the last paragraph was probably only a thumbnail of the other issues that are up in the air which I haven’t even thought of.

Other, relatively minor, rules announced were three on three overtime for 5:00, bringing the AHL on the same level as the NHL and ECHL. If there is no winner at the end of overtime, it’s onto a three player shootout. Also announced was a “coaches challenge” rule which, provided you have a time out, can challenge a reviewable play via video review. Finally, the face-off rule was changed. If you are defending in your zone, your stick goes down first. At center ice, the visitors stick goes down first.

What do you think of these rule changes? Fair or foul?

Injuries 2.0

Just when you thought the Pittsburgh Penguins were finally healthy and bodies were going to, eventually, start filtering back to Wilkes-Barre.

Boom. Nick Drazenovic recalled Tuesday morning and Brian Gibbons and Joe Vitale placed on injured reserve retroactive. But wait, there’s more! James Neal is day to day (upper body) and might still play Wednesday vs. Washington but might not, so there’s a possibility that yet another body may be claimed from Wilkes-Barre.

Jonathan had a Tuesday update to complain about the Tom, Nick and Harry line being broken up to offer perspective on the Pens down the middle.

Coal Street released Barry Goers from his PTO and recalled Nick D’Agostino.

Anyway, I was thinking about all the injuries the Penguins have had in the past three seasons and how pillaged Wilkes-Barre has been as a result. That said, with all of the advanced analytics, charts, metrics, graphs and what have you out there on the internet and filling up your Twitter feed I was wondering if it was possible for someone to come up with a chart defining the injuries sustained by the Penguins in the past three to five years. In comparison, look at the injuries sustained by the other 29 teams and compare them. Example:

Player x broke his ankle pursuing a puck into the boards. His lower leg hits the boards and his leg turns awkwardly and he suffers a broken ankle. How many other NHL teams have had this similar injury?

Like how many times do you see a player block a shot with his hand errantly? How often does it happen to the Penguins in the past three years and the rest of the league?

I guess what I am trying to get at is there is no doubt that the Penguins seem to be ravaged by injuries year after year. There has to be some kind of explanation as to why.

Anyway, I am aiming at a Thursday release of my Second Quarter Grades provided I don’t break, strain, pull, tweak or concuss some upper or lower body injury in an undisclosed fashion. Heh.

Weekend Setup 12/19

I am off from my real job for these next two days so I got a large majority of my Christmas shopping done Thursday afternoon. I could not believe the amount of people out and about. My brother got me a $25 Panera gift card for my recent birthday and Panera, on a Thursday afternoon after the standard 12-1 lunch hour, was packed with people. Doesn’t anybody work anymore? Or are the standard 9-5 workdays a thing of the past and everyone has a .com, work-from-home business empire that they call their bread and butter? Baffles the mind…

Fontina Grilled Cheese with a baguette and a medium Mountain Dew, if you are scoring from home. Fontina Grilled Cheese from Panera is the bees knees.

Anyway…

Couple of things you know, then a few things you might not if you aren’t tuned into the M*A*S*H East Division like I am. Let’s get with the things that you may know…

Brian Gibbons was recalled in wake of Jayson Megna’s injury, yet the Penguins keep winning.

Jonathan’s Thursday update. In it, news that Eric Hartzell is starting tomorrow, Bobby Farnham on the 2nd power play unit and Reid McNeill’s unavailability. Jonathan had a Tuesday update that revealed that Dom Uher should be back this weekend, skating with a full shield.

— Wilkes-Barre will be donning Christmas jerseys this weekend. They had a big Twitter reveal on Tuesday, but it went totally over my head that the Holiday Nutcrackers they handed out Saturday actually had the jerseys painted on them. What slacking by me, I could have had an “exclusive” story on the Christmas jerseys before anyone else.

Outside of Wilkes-Barre, but staying in the East….

Hershey released Jamie Johnson from his standard playing contract and let him go back overseas to the Kontinental Hockey League. Johnson found himself a veteran scratch more than he saw himself of the ice, so it’s a move that was mutual, if I had to guess.

— Syracuse gets an offensive shot in the arm with the announcement this week that they have signed Jon DiSalvatore to an AHL deal. DiSalvatore had been playing in Munich, and much like Johnson in Hershey, wasn’t seeing as much ice as he wanted to so he was let out of his deal and returned here to play for a Syracuse team desperate for offense with much of their team in Tampa Bay on recall.

— Syracuse does get some help with the re-assignments of Matt Taormina and Dana Tyrell back from Tampa Bay.

— Ol’ buddy Chris Collins was released by Norfolk and goes back to his ECHL club in Bakersfield.

Sorry Binghamton, no news out of you this week.

Anyway, Worcester in in town already for the 7:05 Friday start tomorrow in Wilkes-Barre. Gameday for this will be here on the blog tomorrow at 3.

Let’s Go Pens!

Waive Hello To More Nostalgia

Three things to get to this afternoon.

First, the Edmonton Oilers claimed Steve MacIntyre off of waivers. Since MacIntyre was once employed by the Oil Country, one assumed that they regret ever letting the Baddest Man in Hockey™* go. There have also been fisticuffs involving the Oilers preseason games I really haven’t been paying attention to, so the waiver claim makes sense.

Second, the Pens signed Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers to a PTO today. Yup, more nostalgia. You’ll recall Deslauriers in WIlkes-Barre during the split affiliation year with the Edmonton Oilers in 2006-07. More recently, Deslauriers was an Anaheim Ducks prospect. He’s put up pretty stale numbers in the past few years. Sub 90 save percentage and a goals against average in the 3.00 neighborhood or higher. Granted, some of the teams he played for weren’t anything to write home about.

I don’t know what it is with all of this nostalgia going on at Coal Street. Hell, if Peter Mannino is not ready for the start of the season and Pittsburgh doesn’t think Eric Hartzell is quite ready for AHL work, the goaltending tandem on October 5 up in Bridgeport will be Andy Chiodo and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, likely captained by Tom Kostopoulos with Chris Conner running the power play.

To drive the nostalgia speculation even further, John Curry must have all calls from the 570 area code blocked on his phone or something. Last I checked Curry was still unsigned. I’ll tell you this, and this is just my un-hockey-educated opinion speaking, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable with having John Curry in town then I would anything representing a goaltender in Wilkes-Barre right now.

I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter on my different social media platforms about Brad Thiessen and the Pens, “letting him go.” I disagree with this. Hockey is a business. Thiessen fulfilled his contract with the Pittsburgh organization and looked elsewhere for employment. That destination was Finland. Thiessen, had he stuck around for another year and re-signed, would have been #4 on the organizational depth chart again behind Fleury-Vokoun-Zatkoff. Hindsight being what it is, don’t kick yourselves or others for Thiessen doing what’s best for himself and his family by seeking the best opportunity possible at the time.

Oh, finally, Bobby Farnham was re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre today.

Feel free to disagree / agree with my thoughts above and drive the discussion a bit in the comments section below.

* – trademark pending (not really)

2013 Free Agency: Day 2 Recap

If you were waiting to see who else the Penguins would add to the roster you waited.

And waited….

If you were waiting to see where unrestricted free agents Brad Thiessen or Warren Peters would sign, you waited.

And waited…

Outside of the Washington Capitals signing David Kolomatis, a right handed defenseman slated to see top pair work in Hershey in the Fall, Saturday was a pretty dull day, signings wise for the AHL’s East Division teams.

Patrick McNeill, who played six season for the Hershey Bears, has found a new home with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So to fill in a few more paragraphs before I turn in this story, as I did earlier in the day while smoking a cigar in the backyard, let’s speculate as to where Brad Thiessen can land.

Look no further than the two closest geographical rivals, the Binghamton Senators and the Hershey Bears. Both have untested rookies backing up Philipp Grubauer in Hershey and Nathan Lawson in Binghamton.

I’m speculating. But Robin Lehner’s contract runs out next year in Ottawa. Sign Thiessen to a two-year deal. Let him split time with Lawson and be ready if Craig Anderson, who is 32 years old and made only 24 appearances last season due to injury, goes down again. Or, if Lehner wants to test free agency next season, have Thiessen graduate next year. Makes sense, right?

Or, Thiessen could just re-sign with Pittsburgh, and all will be right in this bloggers world.

I’ll keep at the “live blog” thing for at least a few more days. It’ll be up again Sunday morning. You can always add the Twitter list here though.

Hopefully Sunday brings more things to write about.

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