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!



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.

Continue reading “Case For/ Case Against: The Checkers Blue Line”


Gameday – Charlotte at Abbotsford, part two

About last night in Abbotsford:

  • The Checkers defeated the Abbotsfort Heat 5-0, who were previously leading the Western Conference and West Division.  They have since fallen to fourth in the Conference, and second in their division.
  • TSN has a great post-game article about the matchup.
  • Chris Terry lead the team in points with four.  He notched four assists on the night.  And that’s what I call Terryiffic.
  • John Muse, in only his second start for Charlotte, had the first shut out of his AHL career.  His numbers are outstanding, and has deserved each of his three wins this year.  I just wish his teammates played with the same energy in front of Mike Murphy.
  • Before the game last night, Abbotsford had the best Penalty Kill in the league.  After the Charlotte went three-for-six on the Power Play, the Heat fell in the standings.
  • Charlotte’s penalty kill was perfect, preventing all three of Abbotsford’s power play opportunities.  Considering only a month ago I was constantly begrudging the Checkers special teams, it’s nice to see a significant turn around.
  • Justin Krueger took three minor penalties in the first period alone, but then came back to score his first professional goal in the second period.
  • Last night’s loss by Heat goaltender Danny Taylor was his 17th consecutive start since signing with the Heat in early December.

Thoughts, facts and figures about tonight:

  • Brett Carson is set to face his former team tonight.  He cleared waivers yesterday, and was assigned to the Heat by Calgary.
  • Center Krys Kolanos still leads the Heat in goals with 18, and points with 39.
  • Leading Abbotsford in names is Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, with four, and hyphens with two.  He’s a left wing and has two assists in 18 games played. (Yes, I copied this from yesterday, but it’s funny, and nobody commented on it to say they picked up on my bad joke).

Charlotte Transactions:

  • The Checkers assigned Cedric McNicoll to the Florida Everblades
  • Ryan Donald made his Checkers debut last night against the Heat.
  • Newly aquired in a trade with Florida, AJ Jenks and Evgenii Dadonov made their Checkers debuts on Friday night.
  • Charlotte was the beneficiary of another trade yesterday.  American defenseman Joe Sova comes to the Hurricanes Organization from Albany in exchange for Alexei Ponikarovsky and a 2012 fourth-round pick.  With the recent thinning of Charlotte’s blue line due to injuries, Savo’s addition will be a welcome one.  (Also?  If you haven’t read the awesome introductory rap, go back to this post, and prepare to be impressed.)

Gametime:  10:00 p.m. EST

Charlotte Radio: WBCN 1660 AM
Charlotte Twitter: @CheckersHockey@PaulBranecky,
Abbotsford Twitter: @AbbotsfordHeat

Referee:  Andy Thiessen (#11)
Linesmen:  Bevan Mills (#5), Justin Hull (#68)