Same organization, same state, same problems. The Charlotte Checkers find themselves in a similar predicament as their NHL affiliate.
The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. As the Carolina Hurricanes stagnate in the NHL Eastern Conference standings, their American Hockey League farm team, the Charlotte Checkers, are very much in the same position. Currently 13th in the Western Conference (why they’re in this conference is beyond me), the Checkers will have to catch fire to make the post season.
The Checkers have had choppy seas to navigate this season. Some depth issues in Carolina has forced to Checkers to assemble their squad with very little consistency. Much of Charlotte’s difference makers are now with the Hurricanes, like Matt Tennyson and Derek Ryan. Also, injuries and underwhelming seasons have plagued Charlotte all year.
Everything might be changing however. Since January 10th, the Checkers have posted 8 wins from 13 games and have gotten at least a point in 9 of those contests. This includes winning 6 of their last 8. Their run has actually put them into some AHL playoff conversations, but it would be a big undertaking to complete the turn around.
Although overall its been a tough year, some players have really turned it on of late. At the moment, the Checkers are getting great offensive numbers from guys recently demoted from the NHL, like Phil Di Giuseppe and Andrej Nestrasil. Some prospects are chipping in as well. Undrafted center Andrew Poturalski leads the team with 31 points and 2014 4th round pick Lucas Wallmark leads the team with 16 goals.
If you look hard enough, you can find successes with the Checkers this season. Haydn Fleury has done well in his first pro year. Valentin Zykov, the big Russian sniper, has surprised. Blueliner Jake Chelios has provided a big boost for the Checkers. However, on the whole, head coach Ulf Samuelsson’s first outing as a head coach in North America has been a bumpy one.
For better and for worse, the Checkers are very emblematic of the Carolina Hurricanes. Like the Canes, the Checkers have great, young defenders and loads of depth at forward. However, they don’t have game breaking players up front and their goaltending has been poor. Ring any bells?
It is good that the Checkers are similar to the Canes, as it makes transition between each team very easy. Players are more prepared when they reach ‘the show’. Also, even for a AHL squad, the Checkers boast a lot of youth. Getting those prospects as much playing time as possible is the goal.
What isn’t good is the Checkers represent the organizational issues that trouble the Hurricanes. For example, neither the Checkers or the Canes have a go-to game breaking forward on their respective rosters. Also, the goaltender position is a Shakespearean tragedy in both Raleigh and Charlotte. Improvements are being made in the system and help will inevitably come, but, in the meantime, both Charlotte and Carolina find themselves in very similar spots.