What you missed…
Countdown to Opening NightOctober 16, 2021
25 days to go.
A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins
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.
‘Member when we used to average about seven posts a week in the month of December? Those were the days.
Anyway, the ‘will they, won’t they’ hot stove is heating up a bit in the hockey world, so here is where things stand when it comes to whether or not there will be a season.
First, in the AHL, still scheduled to start (tentatively) February 5.
This piece (paywalled) from The Athletic, outlines nicely what the plan is. If you don’t have a subscription, here are the key takeaways:
– They really, really, want to start on February 5. Take is as a make or break on a season, in my opinion. I don’t think there will be any more delays. If there are, you can fireball any hopes of a season
– “Unanswered questions” came up a lot in the piece.
– The AHL will have more of a definitive plan once the NHL lays out theirs. More on that in a minute…
– Expect training camps around January 25. There may not be any exhibition games.
– You are looking at about a 44-50 game schedule that goes to the end of May. They don’t want any more than three games a week.
– It is less and less likely that they will be played in front of any fans. I know in Luzerne County, home of the Penguins, has seen the highest COVID daily cases than any other county in the Northeast Region of Pennsylvania. There are even more cases in Lehigh County, home of the Phantoms. So even if you do have a season, you aren’t having it in front of any fans, safely.
– Rosters may look different. I didn’t think anything of this when I first read the piece Friday night, but new details emerged regarding the NHL later that evening. I’ll get to that in a minute.
– On the revenue side, there is “no realistic chance” to have fans in most of the AHL arenas. So where does the money come from? The sponsors like CCM, and convincing and getting people to buy into AHL TV. If people don’t want to do that (because, you know pandemic and lots of people out of work, so money spent elsewhere, like food) some teams may look to broadcast some games locally.
News later broke Friday night that the NHL and the players reached a tentative deal to play a 56 game season starting January 13, pending other details.
Some of those other details…
This can’t help AHL teams, having their star players on standby on an NHL roster. Yes, the AHL serves the NHL as its master, but boiling down to a watered down half hearted attempt of an AHL season in a can we or can’t we, one cough or sneeze away from postponing games like they are already doing in the ECHL, just two weeks into their season, can’t be good.
I appreciate the efforts, I really do, but I am less and less invested into a season as the time passes. You need to get people vaccinated, beat back the daily counts of this virus, get people working again then come back bigger and better in October vs. rolling out a forced attempt of a season in front of nobody with watered down rosters.
Please wear a mask and get the vaccine when it is available to you.
Didn’t want to do it, but here the post is as alluded to in the close of last nights recap of a toothless display by the Penguins where, they generated close to 40 shots against the Providence Bruins, but didn’t come close to scoring but for an Adam Johnson attempt early in the first period.
From what I have read, the Sharks needed help at right wing. Noesen will provide that. Now if in a month or whenever San Jose should waive Noesen the Penguins can, as they did last year with J-S Dea, reclaim him and assign Noesen back to Wilkes-Barre. Remains to be seen if that happens.
You can look at this two ways. First, a mission accomplished for a coach in Mike Vellucci getting his player in Stefan Noesen full time NHL work again. It’s a coaches job at the AHL level to graduate players, no matter how old they are or how much experience they have, to the next level.
Or, you can look at it as a raw deal for Wilkes-Barre, who are yet again robbed of a player with Noesen’s offensive prowess. Noesen came into the season as a player on an AHL contract, Pittsburgh signs him, has him play a handful of games and loses him on waivers. Was Ryan Haggerty’s phone broke that day? Did Andrew Agozzino not pay his phone bill for the month as part of a prank pulled by the rookies? It was a gamble if or when Noesen was inevitably signed by an NHL team and another gamble when Noesen would have been ultimately exposed to waivers again for the purposes of an AHL assignment.
I’m not choosing a side on this one. Just pointing out both ends of an argument which can be made here.
In other news Thursday, Coal Street assigned goaltender Emil Larmi to their ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers. Just a matter of time here and long overdue once Tristan Jarry, who the Penguins actively tried to trade in the summer, essentially took over the #1 starters job in Pittsburgh and is arguably the best goaltender in the NHL at this juncture.
Back Friday at 3 with the Gameday setup for the rematch with Providence.
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.
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.
– 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.
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.
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.