Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: The AHL

2021-22 Divisional Alignment / Schedule Quirks Announced 6/7

First bit of worthwhile news in what seems like forever came out of Springfield today. Divisional alignments, schedule formats and options as well as a teaser with playoffs announced today.

Let’s get into the division first.

Pens are back in the Atlantic Division with the following teams:

Hershey
Lehigh Valley
Bridgeport
Hartford
Springfield
Providence
Charlotte

The League is bringing ALL of the teams that play in the AHL in 2022-23 to a 72 game schedule. The Pacific Division and their 68 game exception? Gone. But that is next year and not this coming year.

The AHL is giving teams the option to play either, 76, 72 or 68 games in 2021-22. The Pacific Division will play 68 games. The Penguins are among 10 teams which will remain on the 76 game format this season. Divisional foes Hershey, Lehigh Valley and Springfield are on the 76 game train. The other divisional foes (Bridgeport, Hartford, Providence and Charlotte) are electing to play 72 games.

This means three things.

  1. The Sunday games as well as the weekday games are staying for now.
  2. Teams will be ranked by points percentage.
  3. You are probably going to see more of your 76 game brethren than you are your 72 game brethren, which means get ready for 10+ with Hershey and Lehigh Valley as per usual.

Color me surprised that the AHL was able to convince a) the Pacific Division teams (which consist of nearly a third of the AHL at this point and will likely balloon to 10 teams when Palm Springs comes in next season) to play more games and b) the traditional heavyweight teams like Hershey, Chicago, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids and others to accept less dates next season. I think that teams electing to play 76 games willingly this season were a hard no on accepting less games, but with a league make up of 10 teams (eventually with the addition of Palm Springs) and all the other teams electing to play 72, majority rules.

Hey, if it means less Sunday and Wednesday games, I am all for it.

The League also announced plans to expand the amount of teams which will qualify for playoffs next year, but details on that will be announced later, most likely when they announce a playing schedule later in the summer.

Woo, that’s a lot to cover on this hot day in June. Enjoy your summer.

No Playoffs This Year

News out of Springfield on Thursday afternoon revealed one of the worst kept secrets League wide…

Only the Pacific will have a mini tournament to determine a champion there. Funny how we knock them for playing less games (68 to the traditional 76) than the other AHL teams, some may end up playing more this season than others outside that division.

October 15 is the targeted start date for the 2021-22 season with a full 76 game schedule planned.

Wilkes-Barre has seven games (four road, three home) left.

Everything is made up and the points don’t matter this year. I guess you could say that it it’s good that the NHL cared enough about the AHL enough to force a farce of a season for 27 of its 31 affiliates. Prospects needed a place to play, taxi squads muddled the waters a bit but it was the same for everyone. COVID delays, postponements and cancellations were expected, and all clubs are still playing either in front of no, or a limited group of fans.

Here’s hoping none of that happens come October 15. No delays, no postponements, a full schedule against a more traditional matrix of opponents and fans can attend in full or as close to full capacity in every arena across the League. Let’s worry about masks and vaccine requirements down the line. Herd immunity is the ultimate goal, not just in the AHL but as a country.

So, Syracuse….

Th Penguins were originally scheduled to host the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday night in front of the first crowd of the 2021 season.

Well, COVID had something to say about this, and Lehigh Valley’s scheduled game with Binghamton on Wednesday was postponed. What was expected was that their game with Wilkes-Barre scheduled for Friday would follow, meaning the two teams would not play on Friday.

Yes, in part. No, in part.

The League announced a lot of COVID related changes Thursday. Two of the cleaner teams, Wilkes-Barre and Syracuse (who had a few dates with Rochester and Utica scrubbed because of COVID) will instead play Friday in Wilkes-Barre.

No word on Sunday’s game against the Phantoms in Allentown, yet.

This all remains silly and I want off this ride already.

Pens / Devils Postponed to Monday…A Rant

The 85th AHL season stated Friday. It’s off to a flying start already…

COVID protocols, and all that. Devils / Bears, scheduled for Friday, moved to February 17. Pens / Devils, scheduled for this Saturday, moved to Monday at 5.

Listen, this is an awful idea that they are forcing upon us. With major league sports, you can make it happen because of unlimited financial resources, among other reasons. The American Hockey League is the first minor league operation to attempt this. It isn’t going well. It’s not going to go well. It isn’t the first delay of a scheduled regular season game which has been canned. So far, you have:

  • Tucson and San Jose, scheduled for Friday, straight up cancelled. No make up date.
  • Tucson and San Jose, scheduled for Saturday, moved to Sunday.

I don’t want to hear it form anyone that says that this sorry attempt of a season is, “different” or “unique” or “challenging.” I think it’s bad, stupid, dangerous and selfish. It isn’t good for the League as a whole moving forward. It just isn’t. Three teams already (Charlotte, Milwaukee and Springfield) are not playing, and a host of others (Belleville, Toronto, Manitoba, Laval and Stockton (who will play their games out of Calgary) haven’t even started yet because their local Canadian governments won’t let them. Smart, if you ask me.

Anyone who sees it differently is either a team or league rep who wants to brainwash you into thinking otherwise or someone else too far into the forest to see the trees.

This isn’t the last postponement that the League is going to see, and certainly not the last postponement that Coal Street will make jointly with whatever team is on the schedule that day, weekend or coming week.

At some point there are too many holes in the boat for it to remain a safe sailing vessel. Eventually it will sink.

Maybe I am wrong, but there is a pattern here. And it isn’t a good one.

Out the door, Josh Currie was named Penguins captain Friday.

Tuesday’s Preseason Game Postponed to Thursday

 

It’s not like the teams don’t play each other ten plus times in the regular season and the regular seasons starts for both teams 48 hours later. You’re telling me that a preseason game is THAT important that it must be played? Please.

This is just silly, and probably not the last time that there is going to be an announcement that there is some alteration to the Penguins schedule this season.

🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄

Delayed Already

Tyler had some news on Sunday afternoon.

I’m not going to publicly play the speculation game on which player / staff member tested positive.

Tyler followed it up with a story in today’s Citizen’s Voice on the delayed start to the season, speculating on if the delay would have any bearing on the exhibition game the Penguins were scheduled to play in Allentown against Lehigh Valley.

Coal Street with a Monday afternoon announcement confirming the doubts.

This, coupled with….

Makes for cluster bleep of an attempt of a season, and what’s setting up to be a total disaster on all fronts. Just give it time.

The idea of a forced season, especially in the way you have it constructed presently, with taxi squads, three teams sitting out and the way you have your divisions drawn up and the opponents you will play (i.e. Hershey plays Wilkes-Barre, Lehigh Valley and Binghamton and that’s it) makes for a terrible, asinine idea.

But, they are going to make it work, damn the torpedoes!

2021 AHL Schedule Released

They are hell bent on making this work, so two weeks before the season begins, a schedule was announced for said season.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will play 32 games in the abbreviated attempt of a season. Normally what I do in seasons past is a question and answer session, so in keeping with the silly tradition, I offer the following:

Penguins release here. League release here.

1) What does the opponent matrix look like?

Well, you know that the division is changed this season because of the pandemic. Charlotte and Springfield aren’t playing, Hartford, Bridgeport and Providence are playing in a separate three team division which leaves the Penguins, Lehigh Valley, Hershey, Binghamton, Utica, Syracuse and Rochester in a division all to their own called the North Division. Binghamton is playing their home games out of Newark, NJ. There was talk that no team would travel more than 250 miles one way to avoid having to stay in a hotel so that rules out Rochester and Utica. That leaves 10 games with Hershey and Lehigh Valley and six games with Syracuse and Binghamton.

2) Longest road trip? Longest home stand? Three in threes? And will fans be allowed at all?

Well, again, the Penguins aren’t staying in any hotels this season, no team in the division is, really, but since you asked it’s no more than two in a row at home and three straight on the road March 28, 31 and April 3. Zero three in threes. Five back to back games.

No fans to start. The Penguins did mention they would like to allow fans, “at a later date” but if you want my advice, do so at your own risk.

3) Any workday games?

No. The games that the Pens will be playing on the weekdays will be played at home but for April 30 (a Friday) at 7 against Binghamton. All the other weekday games start at 5 but for an April 28 game against Lehigh Valley which starts at 7 and a May 12 game against Syracuse which starts at 7.

I would actually prefer this if there aren’t going to be fans, it frees up my evenings for other things.

4) Is there an All-Star Classic?

Not this year. Laval was supposed to get it under normal circumstances, they just moved it out one year.

5) I didn’t get my free AHL TV code yet.

Neither did I. Don’t fret, just periodically check the e-mail the Penguins have on you. If push comes to shove, call or e-mail your ticket rep.

6) Playoffs?

Don’t know yet. Players want them, team front offices haven’t thought that far out. I don’t see it happening, personally.

7) Any wiggle room for inevitable COVID related delays?

With the concept of playing behind closed doors and teams playing teams only a bus ride away, you would think that there is room for that, but with players wanting playoffs, I honestly don’t think if a weekend set of games for one team gets canned, it’s highly unlikely that those games get added to the tail end or wedged into the schedule.

8) So how are they going to rank teams in the division? Don’t say by points percentage!

Okay, so that question may have been asked by the section in my mind which is bad at math. It looks like yes, they will be ranking teams by points percentage this season because of the amount of games that all the teams are going to be playing and how each differs across the geographic spectrum which is today’s American Hockey League. It’s (sadly) the only fair way to do it.

9) I think this is stupid.

So do I, friend, so do I.

Penguins also announced their training camp roster. Link to that here.

Preseason game next Friday.

Stay safe.