Ulf Samuelsson hired as new Checkers coach

I haven’t read an official release yet, so I’m sure more details will follow but here’s what I know about the Charlotte Checkers new coach, Ulf Samuelsson.


  • He’s Swedish, and a former NHL defenseman. He had a 16-year playing career in the NHL.
  • He won two Stanley Cups as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992. One of his teammates there happens to be a guy named Ron Francis, who is the GM of the Hurricanes and of course makes hiring and firing decisions for the Canes organization.
  • He was also drafted by the Hartford Whalers, which is pretty awesome to see a coach come full circle like that!
  • This is his first stint at a head coach in North America. He’s been coaching professional hockey since 2005 – a season with the Hartford Wolfpack, five seasons as an assistant with the Arizona Coyotes and three seasons in New York with the Rangers.
  • He’s got two kids who grew up playing hockey, quite successfully, with the US National Team Development Program, so I’d guess he was coaching long before he first got a paycheck for it!
  • Though there are (sadly) no more Staal’s playing for the Checkers, his coaching prodigy includes an elder Staal by the name of Marc when he was with AHL Hartford.
  • The Arizona Coyotes are starting a Samuelsson collection. Both of Ulf’s sons are Coyotes. Phillip is a defenseman and Henrik is a right wing. Sister Victoria is playing NCAA D-1 hockey at Penn State.

Charlotte Checkers training camp update: Day four in pictures

First, some photos from camp today.

Matt Marquart (and his hair) score on Charlotte Checkers goaltender extraordinaire Mike Murphy. (Photo - J. Propst)
Matt Marquart (and his hair) score on Charlotte Checkers goaltender extraordinaire Mike Murphy. (Photo – J. Propst)
Beau Schmitz participates in Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo - J. Propst)
Beau Schmitz participates in Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo – J. Propst)
Stefan Della Rovere, Beau Schmitz, Mark Flood and Jesse Deckert participate in a Charlotte Checkers training camp drill.  (Photo - J. Propst)
Stefan Della Rovere, Beau Schmitz, Austin Levi and Jesse Deckert participate in a Charlotte Checkers training camp drill. (Photo – J. Propst)
Adam Brace, signed to an AHL contract over the summer, participates in his first Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo - J. Propst)
Adam Brace, signed to an AHL contract over the summer, participates in his first Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo – J. Propst)
Brodry Sutter, who served as the captain of the Hurricanes at the Traverse City tournament, participates in a drill at Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo - J. Propst)
Brodry Sutter, who served as the captain of the Hurricanes at the Traverse City tournament, participates in a drill at Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo – J. Propst)

A few training camp thoughts and observations: 

  • Currently, there are 7 defensemen, three goalies and 13 forwards participating in training camp, including Stefan Della Rovere, who is still unsigned.
  • In Raleigh, the following players are considered to be “on the bubble” as far as making the Hurricanes roster:  Brett Bellemore, Ryan Murphy and Matt Corrente at defense, and Chris Terry, Zac Dalpe, Jeremy Welsh, Brett Sutter, Riley Nash and Nathan Gerbe.  What does that mean for Charlotte?  Well, two of the defenseman and probably three or four of the forwards will probably end up in Charlotte depending on waivers.  All but Welsh will have to clear waivers to be assigned.
  • The Hurricanes cuts could happen as early as Friday night, following the Hurricanes final preseason game in Raleigh.
  • So who makes the Checkers team after camp?  It’s still too early to tell, though many have asked for my opinion. I’ll just say this… I’d guess one goalie, two defensemen and three forwards get sent to the Florida Everblades, but I’m not sure who the skaters will be quite yet.
  • Jason Shaya was on the Powerplay Post Show today, the only AHL-only radio show.  It’s an internet-based show, and you can listen to Bob Howard’s interview of the great Checkers broadcaster here.
  • Sorry on the delay on posting this! Real life tends to interrupt, and in this case, it was a visit to the always awesome US National Whitewater Center for their Thursday night Riverjam.

Checking in around the division – the playoff outlook

February is always a crazy month in hockey, with the trade deadine coming, and teams making that push for the playoffs at all levels of professional hockey.

As I look at the Checkers schedule for the rest of the month, one thing is clear, and that’s the emphasis on the Midwest Division.  Five of the teams next six games are against Midwest Division foes, including the team’s first-ever visit to Peoria, Il.

What’s especially interesting is to look at the bigger picture, beyond the AHL schedule and standings and the upcoming Calder Cup playoffs, and see how the NHL is going to play into it.

The other four teams in the Checkers division all have NHL affiliates that are firmly rooted in the playoff race.  Vancouver (Chicago) is in second in the West, with St. Louis (Peoria), Nashville (Milwaukee) and Chicago (Rockford) in fourth, fifth and sixth.  The Hurricanes are the only team with an AHL squad in the Midwest who will not be making it to the post season (as much as I’d love to see them rally and make it to the eighth seed, realistically speaking, overcoming an 11-point deficit seems like a bit of a challenge.)

So, what does this mean for the Checkers?  There’s a good chance that the Hurricanes will be sellers at the deadline, get rid of pending UFA’s, and make room for the youth that is thriving in Charlotte.  Of course, come the end of the regular season, guys who may finish the year in Raleigh could still be assigned to Charlotte for what will hopefully be a long playoff run.  Clear Day Rosters aren’t due for another month and a half, so anything is possible between now and then.

As for the AHL playoff outlook, all signs point to YES for the Checkers, with Chicago and Peoria also in the top eight, and Milwaukee just barely on the outside looking in.

As for the other teams in the Checkers division, who knows.  Their parent clubs are pretty cemented in the standings, so the teams may not have to “buy” too many UFAs to make it into the playoffs, but they might be looking for veteran depth.  Of course, come playoff time (Stanley Cup and Calder Cup), an organizations Stanley Cup team is always the priority, and leaving an AHL team short handed is not uncommon.

In other Checkers and AHL News:

  • The AHL announced that the 2013 AHL Classic would be held in Providence, RI.  The last time Providence hosted the All-Star event was in 1995, when the Providence Bruins were in their third season of operation.  It’s interesting to note that the last time a Western Conference team hosted the event, it was 2007. Look at the list of sites, and it’s VERY Eastern heavy.
  • Congratulations to Coach Jeff Daniel’s father, Wayne Daniels, on being named an inductee to the Oshawa Sports Hall of Fame.  Wayne spent 30 years as an athletic trainer working with the Oshawa Generals.
  • Sounds like the Checkers will be without Mike Murphy again this weekend, as the team embarks on a three-in-three, including two games in Illinois and Wisconsin.  The team has signed a third PTO goalie to fill in.  Fortunately, the team is in good hands with John Muse, who has racked up a 7-1-0 record this season (1.67 GAA, 0.948 SV%).
  • Chris Durno, Justin Shugg and Chris Murray will also be sidelined for another weekend.  Durno has begun practicing with the team in a limited, no-contact capacity.
  • Drayson Bowman remains with the Hurricanes, after being recalled last month.

Quick Hits – Post All-Star Break updates

  • Chris Terry had a great showing at the AHL All Star Game, where the WEST defeated the Eastern Conference in a shootout.  Terry, the Checkers lone representative in the Atlantic City event, scored two goals and an assist.  The two goaltenders the Checkers face most frequently, Yann Danis of Oklahoma City and Ben Bishop of Peoria allowed only one goal between the two of them.  Pretty impressive all around!
  • Riley Nash was recalled to Raleigh by the Hurricanes, which leaves the Checkers down another Center.  Nash played in last night’s 5-2 loss to the Islanders.  He had 13:38 minutes of ice time, including a couple of minutes on the power play.  Nice showing, Mr. Nash, despite the team’s loss.  In a related transaction, Jerome Samson was returned back to Charlotte.  Welcome back!
  • Mike Murphy continues to be sidelined with a lower body injury after stepping on a puck in warmups in Norfolk last week.  Jason Shaya has been practicing with the team, but the Checkers may need another backup in time for their roadtrip to Oklahoma and Texas this weekend.  Zac Dalpe is expected to be able to play by Friday.
  • Thanks to Paul Branecky’s handy dandy lines chart, it’s easy to be a bit worried about the position of center, and the Checkers ability to win faceoffs.  Zac Dalpe has been skating with the team, but wearing a no-contact jersey.  Sean Dolan, while his play has definitely been fantastic, is a Checker through a PTO, and AJ Jenks is still learning the ropes in Charlotte.  So basically, the team has one healthy, proven center right now, and that’s captain Brett Sutter.
  • With the Trade Deadline only a few weeks away, there’s a good chance Charlotte will continue losing players to Raleigh.  Currently, the Hurricanes have 12 healthy forwards, so any trade or injury will of course result in another Charlotte recall.  Hopefully, the Checkers will be able to continue to adapt to a constantly changing lineup.
  • After a few weeks of easy travel with only short bus rides between back-to-back games, the Checkers leave for the West division tomorrow.  They face Oklahoma City, the number one team in the league, and the Texas Stars, who are one of the worst teams in the AHL, in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.
  • February is a sad month for home games… the Checkers will be in Charlotte only three times this month, the first of which is February 12.  They’ll be skating on a freshly laid sheet of ice when they return, as we’re in that once-a-year period that the ice is removed for the elephants and company of the circus.
  • The Checkers are currently safe in the second spot in the Western Conference, and continue to lead the Midwest division.  
  • In Midwest division news, the Milwaukee Admirals continue to falter.  They are 2-7-1-0 in their last 10 games, a slide that began around the New Year (when I was in their fine city for a game).  Rockford, however, is on a major hot streak.  They went 7-2-0-1 in the past month, and in the last seven games, they haven’t lost in regulation.  
  • It’s too early to be talking about this, but if the Playoffs started today, the Western conference would be a strange mix.  Four of the five teams in the West would make it, three of five in the Midwest, and only one in the North division.  The Checkers would face the San Antonio Rampage, a team they have not fared particularly well against this year.  Thankfully, with a few months left, we don’t ACTUALLY have to worry about first-round match-ups, yet.


A quick personal note – Things have been slow for me here at Chasing Checkers over the past couple of weeks, and I apologize for that.  I lost a very dear friend to lung cancer over the weekend, and it’s been a hard time for everyone close to Chris.  He was a frequent attendee of Checkers games with me prior to getting sick, and one of my favorite people.  He was a huge supporter of Chasing Checkers from day one, and I miss him like crazy.

Quick Hits: Hurricanes trade Jon Matsumoto, prospect Lindstrom to Florida

With the departure of Jon Matsumoto, Chris Terry moves into the lead in points with 30, and Zach Boychuk now leads the team in goals with 12. You'll be missed, Matsy! (Photo - J. Propst)

First – Jon Matsumoto, thank you for your season and a half with the Checkers.  Your leadership helped the team make it to the Conference finals last year, and your consistant on-ice play and scoring prowess was a huge boost to the team and fans.  You will definitely be missed.  Best of luck with the Florida organization!

I’ve been digging for information on the two new players that became Hurricanes, and could end up in Charlotte.  The biggest name of the trade is right wing Evgenii Dadonov, a third-year North American pro from Russia.  He’s 22, and has split time between the AHL and NHL in each of his three years in North America.  Last year, Dadonov represented the Panthers at the 2011 All-Star Game in Raleigh as a member of the Rookie team.  This year, he’s spent time in Florida and San Antonio.  This year, in 15 games in the NHL, he as three points (2G, 1A) and is a -4.  In San Antonio, he has played 20 games, and has nine points (5G, 4A).

The Hurricanes also gain a player by the name of AJ Jenks.  He’s a Michigan native, and product of the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, where he played with Chris Terry, Brett Bellemore and Michal Jordan, and is possibly going to give his new teammates Mike Murphy and Matt Pistilli a run for the money on best ‘flo on the Checkers.  Jenks was recruited by the University of Michigan, but decided to go the major junior route.  Before making ice hockey his career, he won two national championships as an inline player, and also represented the United States in the 2010 World Junior Championship, where he won a gold medal. (Woo!  Go Team USA!)


In other Checkers news:

  • Earlier today, the Hurricanes returned Brett Sutter to the Checkers.  He will join the team in Abbotsford, where they play Friday and Saturday.
  • In the same “transaction,” they recalled Zac Dalpe.  Dalpe leaves Charlotte on a hot streak, and I fear he won’t be back anytime soon due to his exceptional play.
  • Defenseman Chris Murray did not travel with the team to British Columbia.  Ryan Donald was recalled from the Everblades, and traveled to Abbotsford for the weekend games.  Donald will make his debut for Charlotte.  In Florida this year, he has 11 points in 33 games (3G, 8A).
  • I still have no proof of this, but believe this to be the Checkers first game in their history (at any level) in Canada.  It’s a long time coming, if you ask me, for the organization to play in the land that hockey was born!

Quick Hits: A look back on the first month, thoughts on goalie charging

News and notes worth talking about.

1.  How about the Checkers?

Nine games in a row on the road, and they ended the roadtrip 5-4-0, which is pretty darn good if you ask me.  The travel was brutal, and involved overnight bus trips or 4:00 a.m. wake up calls on game days, but the team really pulled through, especially playing the majority of their games against teams in two of the toughest divisions in the AHL.

All in all, the Checkers should be commended for their efforts over the stretch.  The guys are probably happier than the fans are to be home for a bit, with only one game on the road (and in relatively close-by Norfolk) over the next nine games.

2.  Looking back at last season versus this year

The Checkers are 16 games into the 2011/12 season.  This is about 1/5 of the way through the year.  They have 19 points, and a record of 9-6-1-0, and lead their division.  Of the 16 games they’ve played, 11 of them have been on the road.

At this time in 2010, the Checkers were 6-7-1-2, with 15 points at the 16-game mark in early November.  They’d had seven home games (versus the five this year), and hardly looked like the playoff-caliber team they finished the season as.

It’s great to see a team that has come together so quickly, especially facing the adversity of a new division, new conference and a whole new type of travel.  Now… if only some of the awesomeness that is the Checkers would rub off on the Hurricanes….

3.  The Ryan Miller / Milan Lucic situation.

OK, so this is hardly current anymore, but I’m still upset that there was NO suspension/fine/slap on the wrist go to the principal’s office on Milan Lucic’s hit on Ryan Miller. It’s amazing to me that the guy didn’t get any discipline following the hit.  He raises his arms when he approaches Miller.  He doesn’t try to stop.  I don’t care that Miller wasn’t in the crease.  If Miller wasn’t a goalie, it STILL would have been a dirty hit.  

If you are interested in Ryan Miller’s response, here’s a great video.  Um… probably not safe for work, unless like me, you work with a bunch of foul-mouthed sailor types.  

Why does this have anything at all to do with the Checkers?  Because one week ago, our own Chris Terry was suspended for two games for a “charging” call on the Grand Rapids goaltender.  Obviously, MacDonald was in the crease, which is a more protected area, but Terry wasn’t TRYING to knock him down.  

According to the Grand Rapids Press, MacDonald missed the past three games, but may be able to return to the ice early next week.

Chris Terry is a guy with a previously pristine record as far as discipline is concerned.  He was also thrown even harder into the crease by the Griffins Tomas Tatar.  The fact that Terry received a two game suspension and Lucic got nothing?  That frustrates me!  I totally get it’s not the same league, not the same people enforcing the rules, but Brendan ShanaBan has made a name for himself in being tough, and I hate he let Lucic, a repeat offender, slide.

4.  Movember!

Am I the only one super excited about seeing the Movember progress on Friday night?  Mustaches are so gross, but I LOVE them during this month!  Since I’m unable to grow one, I’ve been wearing my super-special mustache necklace quite a bit, and hope it will bring the Checkers some luck this weekend against the IceHogs.  If you haven’t already, DONATE to Team Terry or Team Durno.

Postgame – Checkers at Rockford, and Quick Hits from around the league(s)

A few random thoughts and observations about the Checkers 4-2 win over Rockford:

  • Man, the AHL schedule is unbalanced!  Last night was Rockford’s first game in a week, their last being October 29 at home, where they lost to Peoria.  The night before, they won on the road in Peoria.  After a week you tend to see either a team that is well rested and ready to play, or one that’s rusty.  I think the Checkers got the latter.  The first period was sloppy on the Rockford side, resulting in three goals practically back-to-back.  Meanwhile, the Checkers have now played six of their nine road games IN A ROW.
  • Rockford definitely came back after the first intermission.  The IceHogs were feistier, and more controlling with the puck, but it wasn’t enough as Charlotte won the game 4-2.
  • Mike Murphy had a good game.  Both of the goals he allowed were tough, sharp angle shots that were nearly unstoppable.  The first came practically from behind him.  Murphy does a great job controlling rebounds.  Really, control is just a good word for Murph.  He has finesse, and his ability to control rebounds and read the play are outstanding.  He just has a very polished way of goaltending.  Some netminders seem choppier, more frantic, and floppy at times, but Murphy’s speed and fluidity make him even better.
  • The Checkers third period play was not as strong as it could have been, but it was also coming from a team that had played 12 periods of hockey, traveled about 15 hours in a bus, plus non-direct flights from Charlotte, all in a period of about 56 hours over the course of three games this weekend.
  • Jared Staal had another strong game.  Maybe the playing time he’s getting is paying off.  I hope I get to see him later this month when the Checkers finally play at home again.  I questioned him being benched the last half of the season last year (and all of the playoffs), because he’s not going to get better if he’s not playing, but he also didn’t deserve to be playing compared to the level of play of his teammates.  It’s a double edged sword, unfortunately.  The good news is, he’s really upped his game, and still has a chance to be the fourth Staal brother everyone is hoping for!
Other thoughts and observations, not at all related to Rockford:
  • KP over at Cardiac Cane did a hilarious and awesome interview with former-Checkers netminder Justin Pogge.  It’s definitely worth a read!
  • The St. Louis Blues fired their coach yesterday, and hired Ken Hitchcock to replace him.  Zach over at the Rivermen Blog wrote a piece on what that might mean for Peoria.  He makes some good points about how with big changes at the NHL level, the AHL club has to adapt as well.  It got me thinking about the Hurricanes recent struggles, and how that could ultimately affect Charlotte…. both with player moves, coaching changes, or the coaching style of systems.
  • With the Blues coach being the first major domino to fall as teams evaluate the first month of the season, you can’t help but wonder if Raleigh will have a big domino soon, as well.  By no means are the Canes as terrible as the 2-11 Columbus Blue Jackets, but their play as of late has been…. lackluster?  I’m not one that should provide a lot of analysis though, because I don’t follow them closely.  I’d like to add a Chasing Checkers writer to the group that can do semi-regular updates on what’s going on in Raleigh, and maybe an analysis of this recent tumble the Canes seem to be having.  If you are interested in writing about the Canes, drop me an email!


Quick Hits: Checkers News and Notes

  • In case you missed my tweet the other day, here’s a great interview with Checkers coach Jeff Daniels from the Milwaukee Admirals website.  Daniels played for the Admirals when they were the IHL affiliate of the Predators in 1998-99.
  • The Checkers left for another three-game roadtrip early this morning, where they flew to Chicago, via Dallas, and will bus to Milwaukee.  They also play Grand Rapids and Rockford during this roadtrip.  And to think I was a proponent of “the travel will be easier in the Midwest”… not so sure with routing like that!
  • Yesterday, following an injury to Jussi Jokinen in Tuesday night’s Hurricanes game, Drayson Bowman was called up to Raleigh.  Zac Dalpe was in turn assigned to Charlotte on a conditioning stint.  Jokinen is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.  More about the transactions in today’s Observer.
  • Cedric McNicoll, who was injured in last Friday’s game against Oklahoma City, and Justin Shugg who cut himself with his own skate in practice on Tuesday, did not travel with the team.  The Checkers have 7 healthy defensemen and 11 healthy forwards.  Still awaiting confirmation on a possible move from Florida to Charlotte.
  • Since I am not able to grow a mustache in honor of Movember, I’m considering knitting a fake one.

Gameday: Houston at Charlotte, part two

I missed the game live last night, and am trudging my way through the archived video on AHLlive.com.  The audio was less than stellar… to no fault of Jason Shaya’s! It started off with problems from the local radio feed, but in the end, was still imbalanced.  It’s as if the gain on the microphones of Jason Shaya and Chris Jablonski was turned up too much, allowing too much sound into them.  Basically, the ambient noise was too prevalent and Shaya’s voice was peaking the signal levels, becoming distorted.  The in-arena noise… music, Wilson’s promo stuff, etc., is distracting when you are listening to play by play.  What can I say… I’m a bit of a techie geek and know stuff about sound engineering.


  • Justin Peters left the game in the third period with an apparent lower body injury.  He had to be helped off the ice.  Mike Murphy came into the game cold, and missed the first shot on net, but had a strong remaining ten minutes.
  • As a result of Peters injury, John Muse has been recalled from Florida.
  • The black jersey curse continues, with the Aeros breaking the tie and winning the game with four seconds to go.
  • Chris Terry, in lieu of Captain Brett Sutter, was wearing a third A for the Checkers.  It was great to see him wearing a letter!
  • Zach Boychuk scored both of the Checkers powerplay goals.  I wonder if it was his way of protesting NOT getting a call up this week to Raleigh.  If so, I’ll take it that kind of protest!
  • The Checkers proved again that they are the best 40-minute team in the AHL.  If there weren’t third periods, they’d have a couple more in the win column.
  • Last night was the third-straight game they gave up the lead in the third period. Can we petition to have third periods removed from the AHL?
  • After a great job last Sunday preventing the opposing team from shooting the puck, the Checkers continued that for the first two periods, with more SOG than Houston.  The third period was a different story… the Aeros outshot the Checkers 17-8.  Yuck.
  • Mike Murphy will get the start in net tonight.  John Muse is expected to dress as his back-up.
  • Following last-season’s tradition of road-red jerseys in the game after the cursed black ones, I’d expect to see the Checkers in red tonight.  I do love those red jerseys!
Gametime:  7:00 p.m. EST
Charlotte Radio:  WFNZ 610

Charlotte Twitter: @CheckersHockey@PaulBranecky,
Houston Twitter: @Houston_Aeros@3rdIntermission
Houston Blog:  The Third Intermission
Referee: Francis Charron (#46)
Linesmen: Joe DeMizio (#0), Jean Menard (#12)
Since I missed the game last night, I did what I could to bring the Checkers to the theater…. I designed the lights for a Charlotte Symphony performance, and call this my “Charlotte Checkers look” with a vibrant, Checkers-red cylorama, and of course, Wilson featured in the foreground!  Let’s Go Checkers!

Quick Hits: Sutter named Captain, and the Defense numbers game in Raleigh

A few quick hits:

  • Justin Shugg and Mike McKenzie were sent to Florida today.  McKenzie is on an AHL contract with the Checkers, and Shugg is in his first year of an Entry Level deal with the Hurricanes.  After his stellar performance in the preseason games this weekend, I’d hoped Shugg would make the cut.
  • Brett Sutter will wear the C for the Checkers this year. (Photo - J. Propst)

    Brett Sutter will be wearing the C this year.  Newcomer (to the Checkers) Chris Durno and Nicolas Blanchard will each serve as Alternates.  Watching Sutter in camp this year makes me VERY confident in Coach Daniel’s decision.  I firmly believe Sutter is going to be the guy to watch on the team this year.  He might not score as many goals as Zach Boychuk or Chris Terry, but there is a whole lot more to being a superstar than goals!

  • Drayson Bowman has already been called up and sent back to Charlotte once, and Riley Nash was assigned to the Checkers yesterday by the Hurricanes.  Both Nash and Bowman will be travelling with the Checkers to Norfolk this weekend.
  • Justin Faulk remains in Raleigh with the Hurricanes.  He is currently defenseman number nine on their roster.  (Not in playing time/ranking, simply in the numbers game).  Considering the Hurricanes typically dress only six defensemen each game, they are clearly overstaffed at that position.  Ryan Murphy could be sent to his OHL team after no more than nine games, leaving them at eight, but that is still a high number.  The Hurricanes can do a number of things to alleviate the number crunch at this position.  They can bury one of their contracts in Charlotte (assuming the player clears waivers and remains unclaimed), but they would be paying a full contract price on an expensive blueliner.  (Four of the current Hurricanes D are making over 2.5 million this season, and two are making over 4 million).  The Hurricanes have always said they will not keep players in Raleigh who aren’t getting playing time, and with this in mind, I am not convinced they will carry eight or nine defenseman.
  • The Hockey News printed their yearly preview of the AHL rankings.  They listed the Checkers as number one in the West.  While I don’t disagree completely with this assessment, their rationale was Justin Faulk, and the forwards of Jerome Samson, Zach Boychuk and Jon Matsumoto.  Fellow Midwest division Peoria and Chicago were ranked 2-3, respectively, while Rockford and Milwaukee fall to 11 and 15.  Milwaukee has a roster full of NHL caliber players, and finished in the West last year with the most points, so it’s a bit absurd to think they are going to fall from first to last.  My friends at The Admirals Roundtable have a much better rant about it all.
  • The Checkers are on a bus to Norfolk as I type this.  My work schedule changed last minute, and I’m pondering a VERY last minute roadtrip to the Virginia coast.  Anyone else headed to see the team play opening weekend?  Games are on Friday and Saturday night at varying times between 7 and 7:30 p.m.