Case For/ Case Against: The Checkers Blue Line

First of all, good luck to the Checkers today in Norfolk.  They face a brand new Admirals squad full of Anaheim Ducks prospects.  (Side note: As one who works in the theater with dancers and actors, I always feel like I should tell the team to “Break a leg” or in ballet terms, say “merde” but alas, I will stick to “Good Luck!” in terms of hockey!

Part two of the case for/case against is here!  A quick analysis of all of the defenseman on the Checkers roster, and what their overall pros and cons are in regards to making the AHL squad out of  camp.

There are a lot of forwards… it might take me years to sift through them all, so don’t expect that post for a couple more days!

So… which defensemen do you think will make the Checkers squad?  I’d say at a minimum, the team will keep seven players, but with such a deep talent pool, eight is a definite possibility as well.  I think it’s going to boil down to four or five guys fighting for the last two spots!

 

DEFENSEMEN

Brett Bellemore

The Case For:

  • Bellemore has completed three full seasons in the Hurricanes AHL organization.  Prior to that, he was a member of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers.
  • A stay-at-home defenseman, he has been paired primarily with Michal Jordan for the past two season, and spends a great deal of time on the penalty kill, and leads all Checkers defensemen in short-handed assists.
  • He’s reliable and consistent, both of which are incredibly valuable traits to the Checkers.
The Case Against:

  • Bellemore has been a consistent, reliable defensive e force in the organization since his first full pro year.  He doesn’t have the flash and scoring of some prospects, but his consistency will continue to benefit him.

 

Justin Faulk

The Case For:

  • Faulk’s resume includes an NCAA title his rookie year at the University of Minnesota – Duluth, a trip to the AHL Eastern Conference Finals the same year with the Charlotte Checkers, and most recently, being named to the NHL All-Rookie team in 2012.
  • Faulk is still incredibly young at only 20 years old.  As the youngest Hurricane during the 2011-12 season, he led the team in ice time.
The Case Against:

  • The only reason that would prevent Faulk from playing for the Checkers this season is if the lockout ends and he ends up in the NHL. Since the NHL schedule has been cancelled until October 24, I’d expect Faulk in a Checkers sweater until at least then.

Marc-Andre Gragnani

The Case For:

  • Gragnani is a four-year veteran of the AHL, and completed his first full season in the NHL last year with Vancouver and Buffalo.
  • An offensive defenseman, during the Sabres playoff run in 2011, he led all skaters with seven points.
  • During much of Checkers training camp, he’s been paired with Justin Faulk, a duo that I would expect to do great things together.
The Case Against:

  • Along with Hurricanes prospects Ryan Murphy and Bobby Sanguinetti, Gragnani was expected to fight for a spot on the NHL roster in Raleigh.  With the NHL lockout continuing, Gragnani’s immediate future seems to be locked in Charlotte.

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Summer Vacation Homework: Flat Checkers

So, unfortunately for Checkers fans, summer vacation started WAY too early, and I still haven’t gotten over it (ask me about the pages of statistics I analyzed in recent weeks, and the essay I want to write about why I DO NOT LIKE the AHL’s new schedule format that eliminated four-in-fives, and only allows for a three-in-three, because I am convinced this change is a huge part of why this year’s Charlotte team faltered… an easier schedule facilitated too much down time, and goofing off, lack of focus, etc., thereby affecting the on-ice performance.  But I digress).

Since it’s vacation time, and I’m about to embark on my first-mini vacay of the summer, I thought having a small prop for vacation photos would be a lot of fun.  In years past, my world traveling hand-knit gnomes were used, but I want something new.

Flat Murph

So… enter the Flat Checkers.  If you know any elementary school-aged kids, you’ve probably heard of Flat Stanley, a series of books that date to the 1960′s about a young boy who is squished flat in his sleep, which enables him to see the world as a flat, paper thin boy who can be mailed, slip under doorways, etc.

I think Flat Stanley is pretty awesome, and what better adaption of him than in the form of a Flat Checker, small and flexible enough to fit in your carry on luggage, in the glove box of your Honda Accord (as the case may be for me!) or in an Envelope mailed to Africa!

I’ve created three print-at-home Flat Checkers, and am more than happy to create more if there are players you really want to see transformed into flat versions, just drop me a line and I am more than happy to oblige!  Just click on the names, and you can save and print them at home.

My personal collection of Flat Checkers will be visiting Banff, and sites all over Alberta, Canada this summer, and I can’t wait to share the photos of them!

 

FlatMurph  FlatMJ  FlatNash

 

Enjoy, and happy travels!  If you tweet pics of your FlatCheckers on your travels this summer, I’ll share them!

 

Pig butts vs. Polar Bears: Postgame – IceHogs at Checkers

Better late than never, right?  I didn’t take any pictures.  Maybe one of these days I’ll shoot a game from start to finish, but I’m terrible at writing and photographing, so here are my written observations.

  • Official gamesheet is here
  • The curse of the black jerseys continued.  I’m kind of scared to do a statistical analysis of those things.  They are so slick looking, but they make for a lot of losses in my eyes!
  • All of my fears of this game came true.  The IceHogs are abysmal at home, but strong on the road.  They are a team that plays a consistent 60 minutes of hockey, whereas the Checkers have forgotten a couple of periods throughout the course of the season.
  • I tweeted during the second period that the Checkers had 30 shots-on-goal, versus the IceHogs 9.  I also shared a disturbing fact, that the IceHogs were 4-1 (now 5-1) when outshot by their opponents.  The Checkers only had four more shots in the second period (after I noticed the SOG numbers) and a total of eight in the third.  If the Checkers had anywhere close to the 21 SOG from the first period, we may have had a different outcome, but Rockford is a team that knows how to play a full three periods of hockey!
  • The Checkers impressed me so much during this game (until the unfortunate ending!)  They were taking the puck in deep, and getting a lot of rebounds.  Both goals were the result of the home team going to the net, and taking rebounds.  Not just getting them, but proactively going after them.  It was a great thing to see.
  • I actually missed Jared Staal, and was disappointed that he was scratched for the game.  That kid has really been on a hot streak lately, and an asset to the team.  I’d rather see him playing than sitting in the press box!
  • I realize I’m just an armchair analyst.  I’ve never played the sport, and I didn’t grow up watching hockey as more than a casual observer.  But the things I worried about in yesterday’s pregame notes (such as special teams, the IceHogs road winning abilities, and even the SOG statistic) all came true, and not in a good way.  It’s kind of nice though (in a pat myself on the back kind of way) that my observations are actually accurate at times.  I honestly don’t take myself that seriously most of the time!
  • Not having Bobby Sanguinetti OR Justin Faulk on the power play was pretty devastating.  The Checkers need more defensemen that can step up and into this role.  Matthieu Roy played on the PP and the PK, neither of which was effective.  Both of Rockford’s goals were scored with Roy on the ice.
  • Michal Jordan was the best defenseman for the Checkers.  Not because he had a goal and an assist, but all of the other things he was doing.  Getting physical, making plays, and getting rebounds.
  • Matt Pistilli, though he didn’t score a point, was a beast.  He had a couple of near misses, and was so physical and aggressive.  He’s consistently been a player to watch this season time and time again.
  • I can’t remember feeling more devastated in recent months than the sight of Justin Peters STOPPING the puck in the shootout, and then, almost as if he forgot where he was, or was distracted by the cheerleaders in the stands, just relaxed a moment too soon, and let that puck trickle past him and over the goal line.  It was as if it was in slow motion.  The thousands in the stands, on their feet, let out this collective groan, SHOCKED at what had happened.
  • I met an IceHogs fan in the stands.  On the left shoulder patch of their jerseys is a pig butt.  Isn’t there a better looking side of the pig than the butt?  Just curious…

 

Other news and notes:

  • Expect a forward to be recalled from Charlotte to the Hurricanes today.  According to Michael Smith, Patrick Dwyer is a game-time decision for tomorrow.  The list of potential candidates is long, from Zac Dalpe to Drayson Bowman, to Brett Sutter, to Jerome Samson.  The Checkers currently have 13 forwards on their active roster.
  • The Checkers are tied for first in the Midwest division with the Peoria Rivermen.  Both teams have identical records (9-6-1-1) with 20 points each.  Milwaukee, who is four games back with only 13 played this season, has 17 points.

The one about summer jobs

I realize there are many more important things to talk about regarding Checkers hockey than summer jobs, but after watching Justin Pogge fall apart on Saturday night, and Mike Murphy get injured on Sunday, my hockey nerves are a bit shot and I’m having a hard time concentrating on the real life trials and tribulations facing our team.  The light at the end of the tunnel is that goaltender Bobby Goepfert arrived in Charlotte last night from Florida.  Goepfert is especially amusing on twitter, and has made me a lover of Jeopardy (Or, Goepardy, as we call it now) and a hater of the reigning champion Tom.  If you are on twitter, you’ve got to follow @geffman47.  You won’t be disappointed!

As of yet, the AHL hasn’t reported this as an official transaction so I hope that his arrival in Charlotte was more precautionary than anything else, but if he gets to stay for awhile, I hope more Checkers fans will get to experience his unique (and awesome!) personality.

Arriving with Goepfert in Charlotte is another Everblade, Cedric Lalonde-McNicoll.  I assume he is a safety net for ailing forward Oskar Osala.  Since Jared Staal has not played since being assigned to Charlotte by the Hurricanes, I assume he will continue to watch games from the press box as he has been all month.

So I’ve been thinking… what if our own Charlotte Checkers players had to get summer jobs like the ones I had when I was their age.  I, personally, spent my college summers either working at a fantastic summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina, or sweating in the NC humidity on an outdoor stage at Carowinds.  I can assure you, summer camp > theme park employment!

So what if the guys had to get a summer job?  Some are easier to “find” for them than others… so without further adieu, my suggestions for summer employment.

Justin Pogge already has the beginnings of a modeling portfolio, so CLEARLY he should move to NY or LA and get on continuing that journey to being a covergirl… err… I mean coverboy.  Or maybe in Penticton there is a big market for goalies-turned-models.  I was in the vicinity of Penticton last summer, and it didn’t seem to be overrun with models, so it might be a good fit… you know, less competition and all that.

Netminder Mike Murphy has quite the appreciation for animals, which is obvious to all of us who follow him on twitter.  While initially the focus of his tweets seemed to be on monkeys, he seems to have moved on to other animals as well.  So maybe he should become a zookeeper?  If he wants to stay in North Carolina, maybe the zoo in Ashboro is looking for a summer intern.  Anyone have connections?  Just be careful, Murph… Monkeys are known to throw poo….

Alternate Captain Nicolas Blanchard has a fantastic smile, and one that at first glance, you’d never know he’s missing teeth on the top and bottom (as his teammates have shared in interviews).  While I’m not sure he should become a spokesperson for a dentist, he’d be great for a company that makes denture adhesive… I think it’s unfortunate that all of those poly-grip ads are full of unattractive blue hairs.  Heck, if Blanch was smiling at me from TV talking about the benefits of a product, I might have to buy some myself!

Defenseman Zack Fitzgerald should of course intern as a tattoo artist.   At a recent skate with the Checkers, he was drawing a pretty awesome skull and crossbones tattoo in sharpie on a young boy’s arm.  I figure, he trades in that Sharpie for a needle and ink, and there’s no telling what kind of damage he could do!

Rookie Michal Jordan has quite the career ahead of him as an “As seen on TV” salesman/infomercial actor.  All I know is his believable pitch of the Pasta Boat and Right-Fit Button made me want to go out and get myself a set of them!  I have a few connections in the theater business if he wants to explore some acting classes over the summer…

Who else has some summer job ideas for our Checkers?

Feel free to submit suggestions, and maybe we’ll see a part two of this post!