Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Not AHL

Friday Potpourri

Couple of loose ends to tie off before the start of the Labor Day Weekend…

In a move that shouldn’t surprise you, Mike Vellucci was named General Manager of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins this week. It is a dual capacity role that the reigning AHL Coach of the Year is familiar with, having served in the same position with the Charlotte Checkers last season.

Coal Street went hard on the Vellucci news this week. He’s here to win, and they have a series of video interviews where he says the right things to give fans of the AHL team hope for this season. Who am I to doubt a coach who was elected best last year who also led the AHL’s best team to the Calder Cup?

The Penguins are running the video series on their Twitter page and have the first two up. I’m likely not going to edit in the third or fourth here for the blog but if you want to see them, just watch their Twitter feed.

Ben Lovejoy retired this week. I have three all time favorite Penguins. He is one of them. The other two are Wade Brookbank and Casey DeSmith. Lovejoy came through Wilkes-Barre where he learned the pro game and was a likable, personable player. I’m hoping now that with the cloud of an extension agreement cleared that Coal Street starts adding to their Hall of Fame and that Lovejoy is one of the names who gets enshrined someday.

Patrick McGrath has found himself work. It’s with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL. That news was announced Thursday. McGrath plans on reporting to the Grizzlies AHL affiliate Colorado’s camp in the hopes of picking up an AHL contract. McGrath was an extremely popular player whom a lot of fans related to here in Wilkes-Barre. I wish him nothing but the best with the Grizzlies. Utah actually makes a visit to Wheeling on November 15 of this year and one has to guess that a lot of Nailers fans will want to see that one.

In other AHL news, Phantoms captain Colin McDoland signed with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It’s assumed that McDonald will wear the “C” for the Sound Tigers this year as their long time captain Ben Holmstrom signed an ECHL deal with Norfolk earlier in the week.

Pittsburgh announced details on their prospect tournament for next weekend complete with a roster which Jonathan Bombulie dissected. A lot of these names you can look for in Wilkes-Barre at some point in the immediate or near future, when eligible.

AHL had this nice graphic.

I’m no math major, but that’s five weeks. Enjoy what’s left of summer until then.

Bill Guerin Named General Manager of Minnesota Wild

Usually when things like this happen, it’s the worst kept secret in town. Well on Wednesday, it was made official. Bill Guerin was named the General Manager of the Minnesota Wild.

That news obviously leaves a vacancy now in Wilkes-Barre as the AHL Penguins are without a General Manager, the spot previously filled by Guerin.

My guess for a replacement is Mike Vellucci, the current head coach of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. He would make the most logical choice as natural replacement as he had experience in the position with the Charlotte Checkers.

This piece, buried behind a paywall, notes Vellucci as well as Scott Young and Tom Kostopoulos as candidates for the GM position in Wilkes-Barre.

These things normally come about fairly quickly as contingency plans are in place weeks before news becomes official, so we probably won’t have to wait long for the name of the person who will fill the role that Guerin left behind.

Other news…

– Jeff Taylor has found a home in 2019-20, signing this past Tuesday with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Taylor was a non-tendered restricted free agent Pittsburgh did not qualify.

If you read the blog last week, you knew about the home dates for the preseason action the Penguins will be participating in, well on Monday they filled us in on the road schedule. Saturday, September 28 in Hershey at 7; Sunday in Allentown against Lehigh Valley at 3:05.

That’s all for now.

Thursday Tidbits 7/19

Emptying out the notebook with the following pieces of news from the last week or so.

– It was announced today that Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins assistant coach Tim Army was named Head Coach of the Iowa Wild. The Wild play in the Central Division, and will not see the Penguins on their regular season schedule. The job opened up when Derek Lalonde took a job as an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Wild were primed to be a strong team to start last year and were for large parts but they fizzled, losing seven of their last ten games and falling out of playoff contention. Lalonde fails upward, and gets an NHL gig while Army comes over in an attempt to get Iowa to the playoffs in 2018-19.

– Army may not be the only Penguins assistant on his way out the door…

– Pittsburgh re-signed Teddy Blueger, Thomas DiPauli and Ethan Prow this week. The only RFA left outstanding is Tristan Jarry.

Couple things from Coal Street this past week. First, the Penguins Podcast is back (on SoundCloud, which means half the people can’t just download it on iTunes and listen to it on their commute home read: me if any Penguins staffer reads this, please put the podcast on iTunes sooner rather than later)

Finally, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary, the Penguins are looking for your fondest memory of the last 19 years. You can let them know right here.

Enjoy your weekend.

Lively New Livery

Coal Street teased the following this morning…

…which is good for summertime blogging I suppose. I’m enjoying my summer and the warm weather along with the pool and cigar time. Good to keep the fingers sharp and the content on the blog fresh.

Later that day, the Pens announced a new look…

Release here. Remember with the new rule change this year it will be whites at home till Christmas than darks at home thereafter.

No word on if there will be alternate jerseys and what those will look like. There always is but there was no word in todays release.

For visual learners…

Details on when and where you can get these new colors in the press release.

One other note that was out there today was on an ex-Penguin. Eric Hartzell is back playing in America and today signed with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL.

More news to come this week.

Defenseman In, Defenseman Out

Couple signings to note as we edge towards the first round of cuts in Pittsburgh and the start of training camp here in Wilkes-Barre…

–> Coal Street announced the signing of 6’3 defenseman Evan Wardley. Wardley, late of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League, debuted as a professional this past Spring with the ECHL Wheeling Nailers. He has a boatload of penalty minutes, which means he plays a physical game that he can back up with his fists. Admittedly, I am now just making up words about the guy to fill a paragraph, but Wilkes-Barre must have seen enough of him and liked him so much that they offered him an AHL deal.

–> Nick D’Agostino found a home. Remember him? He was arguably, in my opinion, one of the best defensemen here in Wilkes-Barre during the slew of callups to Pittsburgh. His non-tender of a qualifying offer by Pittsburgh this past summer (he was a restricted free agent) came as a shock to me. He signed with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL today. If they name sounds familiar to you, they are the team that is the ECHL affiliate of none other than the Hershey Bears. Now D’Agostino signed an ECHL deal, meaning that he would need to sign an AHL deal with Hershey to play for them. Not saying that he would, but he could.

Goaltender Eric Hartzell remains the only member of last years team that remains unsigned.

That’s about it. Pittsburgh is in the midst of an eight game exhibition schedule. The hope here is not who wins or loses, it’s that no one gets hurt.

More later this week when the first round of cuts come down from Pittsburgh and when Wilkes-Barre announces a training camp roster.

A Rabbit and a Sestito Walk Into a Matrix…

The moment we have all been waiting for is nearly here. It was announced today that the 2015-16 AHL playing scheduled will be released Thursday at 1 p.m. I’ll have a full dissection of the schedule of opponents the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will face starting in October here on the blog Thursday afternoon. Same workup as prior years with a question and answer session. If I think of any new wrinkles between now and then I will work them in. Fun times ahead.

Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed Tom Sestito to a professional tryout agreement. Sestito is a journeyman and part of a dying breed of one trick ponies who know nothing other than how to fight. You can take this news any which way you like. A protector for Sidney Crosby / Evgeni Malkin / Phil Kessel, or Daniel Carcillo redux. As you recall, Pittsburgh signed Carcillo to a similar professional tryout agreement last year before releasing him. Carcillo later signed on with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that won the Stanley Cup last year. What I don’t see is Sestito a replacement for the currently unsigned Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond here in Wilkes-Barre. Sestito I don’t think is willing to settle for the AHL, as evidenced last season when his prior team, Vancouver, tried to send him to their AHL affiliate Utica. He refused and Vancouver sent him home. I think Sestito comes in with the intention of making the Pittsburgh roster and if not, he packs his bags and heads in another direction.

Pittsburgh also announced Tuesday the roster for the rookie tournament. Notable names like Derrick Pouliot, Bryan Rust, J-S Dea, Connor Sheary and Anton Zlobin are among the participants who will face off against the Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Senators prospects in London, Ontario in September.

In other minor league hockey news, the Greenville Road Warriors are no more in the ECHL. Instead, they reincarnated as the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. No, I am not joking. Link to the official news from the ECHL here. Yes, the logo includes an angry rabbit holding a carrot that is also being used as a hockey stick. The Wheeling Nailers will face off against the Swamp Rabbits just once this upcoming season, February 26 in Wheeling.

Check back tomorrow for full dissection on the Penguins schedule Thursday afternoon. Hockey season will be here before you know it.

Make it the Monarchs

We have a second round opponent.

It’s the Manchester Monarchs, winners 5-3 in the deciding Game 5 against the Portland Pirates. I took the game in on AHL Live. Here’s the thumbnail summary….

Manchester scored twice in the first two minutes of the first and third period to ice the game away. They have scored first in the first two minutes at home in all three home games against the Pirates.

Portland had the better of the chances in the first period I thought, despite getting out shot 17-8 in the first period.

Portland had one shout on goal in the first half of the second period and Manchester went up 3-0, then the Monarchs imploded and the Pirates got three quickly, at the midway point in the second, with about five minutes left and with 0.5 seconds left in the second for a 3-3 score heading into the third.

Manchester scored twice in the opening 1:36 and Portland didn’t have another comeback in them.

Here is your schedule for the Eastern Conference Semifinals…

Eastern Conference Semifinals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
1-Manchester Monarchs vs. 4-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 

Game 1 – Wed., May 6 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
Game 2 – Thu., May 7 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
Game 3 – Sat., May 9 – Manchester at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 4 – Mon., May 11 – Manchester at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Tue., May 12 – Manchester at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., May 15 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
*Game 7 – Sat., May 16 – W-B/Scranton at Manchester, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

You can check it out for yourself here. You can also see the Hershey and Hartford series as well and note that the Wolf Pack will play two games at the home of the Worcester Sharks because the circus is in town in Hartford.

Lots to break down here. Pens were 1-3 against the Monarchs this season. That one win was the Matt Murray shutout of the Monarchs en route to his shutout streak record. What I saw out of Manchester is that they play fast and loose game, really quick, which has been their modus operandi all season. Portland at times gave them difficulty in this particular game that I watched tonight and did run the Monarchs to the brink of elimination to the final period of the final game. What does it mean going forward? Stay tuned.

Pens practiced at Coal Street today since sweeping the Crunch. Bryan Rust and Nick Drazenovic both practiced in full and are possibilities for Round 2.

I updated the Postseason chart page to include the Monarchs production in their five game series win against the Portland Pirates. Check that out here. I am debating doing an overall chart, like you normally see, then a chart for the series itself. I’ll welcome any input thrown my way.

Let’s Go Pens!!!