AHL hockey in a post-lockout world – Western Conference records over the past 20 games.

I’m supposed to be preparing a presentation for my Thesis defense next week, but instead I got sucked into AHL hockey statistics.

I don’t even know if what I put together could be considered as legitimate statistics, but I’ve been curious (and impatient, I suppose) to see how the post-NHL lockout was going to affect the AHL.  Some teams were more affected than others (Charlotte, for example, lost four forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender, all of whom played a major role in the Checkers success during the first half of the season).  Oklahoma City lost their entire top line and top-scoring defensemen.  Two former Barons are now serving as Alternate Captains for the Edmonton Oilers.  Other teams were affected in a less significant way, and have not seen a significant change in their roster.

Most AHL teams have played between 8-10 games since NHL camps began a few weeks ago.  I went through the schedule, and made a list of the western conference teams overall record, their record over the last ten post-lockout games, and the final ten games the teams played prior to the end of the lockout.

If there is interest, I’ll put together the stats for the Eastern conference team, but honestly since the Checkers only play Norfolk, I was less interested in how the east has been affected.

Obviously, a ten game sample is not hugely significant during a 76 game season, however I think it does show a glimpse of how teams were performing prior to the end of the lockout, and the beginning of what to expect now that AHL squads are re-establishing themselves with new players, and handling the loss of guys like Charlotte’s Zac Dalpe, Drayson Bowman, Bobby Sanguinetti, Dan Ellis and others.

Western Conference Team Records (and Norfolk, because Charlotte plays them frequently)

Previous 10 Post-lockout 10 Season Date last 10 began
Abbotsford 3-5-0-2 6-4-0-0 22-13-3-4 4-Jan
Charlotte 5-2-2-1 7-3-0-0 26-14-2-3 6-Jan
Chicago 7-2-1-0 6-3-0-1 20-14-3-2 3-Jan
Grand Rapids 7-3-0-0 4-4-1-1 24-14-2-2 6-Jan
Hamilton 2-7-0-1 3-4-0-3 14-21-1-5 2-Jan
Houston 4-4-1-1 4-4-2-0 21-15-4-3 5-Jan
Lake Erie 5-4-0-1 7-2-0-1 23-16-2-2 3-Jan
Milwaukee 6-4-0-0 3-4-1-2 19-17-3-3 5-Jan
Norfolk 6-2-0-1 4-5-0-1 18-21-2-1 6-Jan
Oklahoma City 6-3-0-1 3-5-1-1 20-17-2-4 5-Jan
Peoria 6-4-0-0 5-4-1-0 19-19-3-2 5-Jan
Rochester 5-4-0-1 7-3-0-0 22-15-2-1 31-Dec
Rockford 4-5-1-0 3-7-0-0 20-21-1-1 4-Jan
San Antonio 3-6-0-1 5-5-0-0 18-22-0-4 4-Jan
Texas 5-3-1-1 8-1-1-0 26-12-4-2 6-Jan
Toronto 7-1-1-1 5-4-1-0 23-13-2-2 2-Jan

So… a few observations.  Hamilton was terrible before, and continues to be.  (And since they released Mike Commodore from his PTO, I feel certain they will stink even more! #Bitter).  Oklahoma City’s record has begun to plummet, rather rapidly, but that’s not a surprise after losing Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz and Yann Danis, though as of today, Danis has cleared waivers and been returned to the Barons.  The Checkers, surprisingly, have had a better month of January than they did prior to losing nearly all of their top-scoring forwards and defensemen to the Hurricanes.

The Texas Stars are on a tear, and share the top spot in the league with Binghamton. Charlotte is close behind them and sits third overall in the league.

Milwaukee has struggled this month, as have Grand Rapids and Toronto, at least compared with their December records.

So… what do you think all of this means? Can anything be gleaned from these recent AHL records? What do you think will be the key for the Checkers as the season continues? 

An open letter to the NHL: Why free nachos won’t buy my support

Dear NHL,

It’s days like today I’m glad I’m an AHL hockey fan, because as a fan of the American League, I don’t have to take part in any of the bribes that NHL teams are doing to try and win over their fans again.  I used to be an NHL partial season ticket holder.  For two years, I drove over five hours round trip for many, many games, but then I discovered that my local team, the Charlotte Checkers, was a much better value, and much more worthy of my support.

Don’t get me wrong, I hated to see most of the players from Charlotte go that were called up by the Hurricanes from training camp, but all deserved it, no doubt about it.  The coming weeks are going to be interesting to watch as AHL squads start from scratch with completely different rosters than the ones they started the season with.   I’m anxious to see what new Checker Luke Pither will bring to the Charlotte.  Dan Ellis, I will miss you the most, but I’m glad you are back in the NHL where you deserve to be.

But this morning, my mind wasn’t on the AHL. As I was reading a few news outlets and Twitter this morning about what various NHL teams are doing to bribe fans into coming back is kind of disgusting.

So… it’s nice, and all, that the teams are “giving” things away, but merchandise that was bought to sell over the course of an 82-game season and has been sitting in cardboard boxes for months, and discounted hotdogs seems pretty pathetic.

I really wouldn’t want anything free from a team or the league.    What I want, is a heartfelt apology for dragging something out that should never have taken this long.  I want an explanation as to why some of the greatest showcases of the NHL were ripped from us this year, from the Winter Classic to the All-Star Game.  I want the league and teams to say “We’re sorry, we treated our fans like crap, and even 50 cent hot dogs and a pretty video on NHL.com won’t make up for it.”  I want to see Gary Bettman groveling and begging for me to come back.  Apologize to the fans, and explain to us what took so long for us to have hockey back.

I know it won’t happen, but it would be nice, right?  A REAL apology is what the fans deserve, not the canned comments that were made earlier this week.  My love can not be bought with free nachos, discount hot dogs, or 50% off a made in China t-shirt that at $32, was overpriced to begin with.

So Mr. Bettman, offer the fans a real apology and a real explanation of why you locked the players out for a third time in a decade, and then, maybe, we can talk.  Until then, I’m going to continue to support my favorite AHL team, the Charlotte Checkers.

Signed,

A proud fan of the American Hockey League

Checkers, Barons and Bieber, oh my!

Apparently I’m on a numbers kick…. Yesterday, the Checkers published a piece I wrote for them with a lot of biographical stuff about me by the numbers

 

So in keeping with the theme of numbers…. Here are a few more.

7 – According to Paul Branecky, The number of hours the Checkers have to spend in a bus to get to Houston from OKC on Saturday night.

8 – The magical number of days left until the NHL season begins.  (Only 96 days late, but who’s counting!)

45 – The number of points the Checkers amassed during the NHL lockout.  With barely more than half of the season left, if the Checkers can get 45 more (and a few to spare), the playoffs should be a lock.

11 – The number of days until superstar Justin Bieber plays at the Time Warner Cable Arena on January 22, home of the most awesome team in the AHL, the Charlotte Checkers.  Bieber, as you know, is a huge hockey fan.  I believe that the Checkers should get him a personalized Biebs jersey with his favorite number, 6, and maybe even give him a PTO…. Come on, think about the publicity it would generate!!!!!

6 – The number of times this season, so far, the Checkers have played 3-in-3s.  All of them have included road games.  The good news is this is the last until mid-April, when the Checkers play two games at home before flying to Chicago for a third.

1 – Game day twitter list you should follow while listening to the game tonight.  It’s limited to the most in-touch Checkers and Barons media (and me, of course).  If you have suggestions of who to add to it, I’m always open to new voices!

2 – Awesome bloggers you should follow this weekend while the Checkers are in Oklahoma City.  Neil at Tend the Farm and Patricia at Artful Puck are some of the best in the AHL, and always provide insightful coverage of the Barons.

 

As always, Let’s Go Checkers!

Hurricanes assign 28, bringing Charlotte Checkers roster possibilities to a total of 33 eligible players.

After placing 11 players on waivers yesterday, the Hurricanes announced today that 28 players had been assigned to the Charlotte Checkers.  The only player on the Hurricanes roster who spent a significant amount of time in Charlotte last year that was not assigned is Drayson Bowman.  It seems the Hurricanes didn’t want to risk him to waivers, though no NHL players were claimed during the waiver process from any team yesterday.

Included in the group of 28 from Carolina are 2010-11 Rookie of the Year winner and former NHL All Star Jeff Skinner, and one-time Charlotte Checker and NCAA Champion Justin Faulk.  While their assignment doesn’t guarantee either will play in the AHL as Eric Staal did during the 2004-05 lockout, there is a very good possibility both will suit up in Charlotte.

The list of players now eligible to play in Charlotte include 28 under contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, and five players who signed AHL contracts directly with the Checkers, bringing the total to 33.  The typical AHL playing roster usually hovers between 21-23 players during the season.

I’m grateful to not be a coach, because choosing which of the 33 outstanding players to send to the Florida Everblades will be a challenge.

For a bit of NHL lockout reading as it pertains to the AHL, here are a few articles worth reading:

After the jump, you can see a list of all eligible players.  It is important to note that the checkers have only four players who qualify as AHL Veterans (Nicolas Blanchard, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Brett Sutter and Jerome Samson.  Since the AHL allows six (five regular vets and one exempt who have played over 260 games), Charlotte is not at risk for having to bench any veterans, and could even sign additional veterans should they so desire.

Players shown in italics are on AHL contracts with the Checkers, and the asterisks represent veterans.  It’s quite a roster!

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Getting to know the San Antonio Rampage

Good afternoon!  Today, I bring to you the first in a four-part series about the Checkers new South Division teams.  Just as I did last season when the Checkers joined the Midwest division, I   put together a quick interview of some of the outstanding blogs and their top-notch writers to bring Checkers fans an insiders look at the new teams we are going to face more regularly.

Before I get to the Rampage interview, a couple of interesting tidbits:

  • The Checkers have announced they will be playing one preseason game, on the road, in Norfolk on October 6.  As this is the ONLY opportunity to drive to a Checkers game before early November, I’m planning to make the trip to Virginia.  Who’s with me?
  • There are multiple reports that the NHLPA and NHL have agreed to a special waiver period.  Beginning now, and ending on September 15, veteran players on two-way contracts can be assigned/loaned to their AHL squads.  They would have to be reassigned to their NHL squad three days before the NHL season starts in order to avoid waivers. The list of players in Charlotte this would affect includes Nic Blanchard, Brett Sutter, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Jerome Samson.
  • Here’s an article about the Flyers plans to send their younger players to the AHL should an NHL lockout happen.  I have yet to find any statements from the Hurricanes about their plans for players such as Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and others who are eligible to play in the AHL without clearing waivers or being affected by veteran limits.

Today’s interview is with Nathan over at Runnin’ With the Herd.  You can follow him on Twitter at @RampageNate.  He runs a great site, and was a wonderful source of information last year when the Hurricanes and Panthers made a big trade involving Jon Matsumoto, AJ Jenks and Evgenii Dadanov.

 

 

Chasing Checkers - Can you tell me a bit about hockey in San Antonio?

Runnin’ with the Herd – Hockey has grown exponentially in the five seasons I have lived here. In my first season (07-08), we averaged roughly 4500 per game. Every year, the average has increased, topping out this past season with a franchise record 7100+ per game. It is difficult competing with football here and the attendance takes a noticable upward swing after the first of the year. But the passion is definitely here and growing every season. The Spurs also own the Rampage so the relationship with regards to the ATT Center is flawless. Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SSE) has invested a lot of time and money into the Rampage and have a huge interest in seeing the franchise succeed both on and off the ice. 

 

CC – How is the relationship between San Antonio and Florida?

RWTH – The relationship is night and day compared to the first time these two teams were partnered up. The first go-round, the Rampage were a complete afterthought with no concern for player development or team success. Dale Tallon and Mike Santos have made a concerted effort to improve the team in both offseasons and during the season last year as I’m sure you are well aware. The addition of Matsumoto was probably the biggest acquisition of this franchise’s history.This summer, Santos was very active in free agency for the Rampage, signing JF Jacques, Jon Rheault, and Andre Deveaux. 

 

The Rampage have had a pretty non-descript history. I tend to look at their history in three phases. The first Florida affiliation, the Phoenix era, and the new Florida partnership. The first era saw very little success out of it’s players at the AHL level. Jay Bouwmeester played here briefly, as did Nathan Horton (Boston). Other than that, there is very little to really speak of. The Phoenix era brought us some better players. Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekmann-Larsson, Mikkel Boedker and Kyle Turris are probably the biggest names to play in San Antonio. We’ve seen a couple of veterans play here briefly before being bought out or moving on as well. Steven Reinprecht, Petr Prucha, and Anders Eriksson are a couple of examples. 

 

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