Old friends, Sterling and Blanchard (PETE G. WILCOX/THE TIMES LEADER )

Charlotte Checkers New Western Playmates

A Chinese General, Sun-tzu, once stated, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

The AHL announced conference realignments today that clearly impact the Charlotte Checkers. The Carolina team has been adopted by the Western Conference under the Mid West Division.

Our  mission…get to know these new adversaries. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? We will penetrate their inner workings and dominate our first season as westerners. Our new Mid West competition:

Chicago Wolves:

Doell (Photo: Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves)

The Wolves have a new affiliation with the Vancouver Canucks since their previous affiliate, Atlanta Thrashers, hiked it up to Winnipeg. The four time league champs are entering their 18th season in October. The Wolves lacked bite last year with 89 points in 80 games (39-30-5-6). The team is not bringing their coaching staff back in 2011-12. How can we use Sun-tzu’s best friend tactic with the Chicago team? Make BFF’s with returning seasoned center Kevin Doell. He is the Wolves 12th all time scorer with 168 points (68g, 100a). He also helped lead the 2008 team to claim the Calder Cup.

Milwaukee Admirals:

The #1 seed in the West Division last season went 7-6-0-0 in the Calder Cup race last season. No doubt a fierce team. However, the loss of goalie extraordinaire Mark Dekanich and forward Andreas Thuresson has to sting a bit. The Columbus Blue Jacket intelligently snagged Dekanich. However, the Nashville Predators affiliate team did gain Habs Assistant Coach, Kirk Muller and Swedish goalie, Magnus Hellberg. (Magnus, ah, coolest netminder name ever.) Our strategy? Get in good with Muller. Eat up his penalty killing tactics.

Rockford Icehogs:

Someone has to be last, and that someone was the Icehogs last season. They finished last in the West Division 38-33-4-5. Not exactly a matching performance to their affiliate The Chicago Blackhawks. Icehogs need some stability in the crease. Goalie, Alec Richards, went 17-21-0 with a .899 SV%.  The recent signing of left winger Paul Zanette will add to their offensive efforts at least. The Niagara University graduate racked an impressive 105 points (53g, 52a) in four NCAA seasons. His senior year 55 points ranks 6th among all his college peers. No doubt who the BFF has to be in this case. Checkers defense better show Paulie some very close love and attention.

Peoria Rivermen:

The St. Louis Blues AHL team went 42-30-3-5 for a third place seat in the West Division last season. They were swept by the Houston Aeros in the Calder Cup playoffs. Their goaltending intimates me. Add Ben Bishop (6’7, 215 lbs…gasp) and Brian Elliott behind Jaroslav Halak and Charlotte better be ready for a goalie showdown. Not to mention the Rivermen now have a familiar face, Brett Sterling, on the roster. Sterling, previous from Wilkes-Barre, earned 27 goals and 26 helpers in 2010-11. We will use our previous conference affiliation to get in good with Sterling…then mess with his head.

*All information courtesy of AHL.com

Tags: AHL Alec Richards Andreas Thuresson Ben Bishop Brian Elliott Charlotte Checkers Chicago Wolves Jaroslav Halak Kevin Doell Kirk Muller Magnus Hellberg Mark Dekanich Milwaukee Admirals Paul Zanette Peoria Rivermen Rockford Icehogs

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