August 02, 2012 7:52 AM
Checkers broadcaster Jason Shaya checks in each week with his 10 Thoughts - a series of observations about the team and the hockey world in general.
1. The recent blitz of signings by the Carolina Hurricanes gives the Checkers more than enough players to start the season and battle for a Western Conference playoff spot. With few exceptions the team should remain very much intact. Several players from last season had a substandard year and perhaps took steps backwards in their development. Other players like goaltender John Muse and forward Justin Shugg used last season to add another championship ring to their respective resumes. So, this year’s team will be comprised of players trying to erase the hardships of last season and others looking to continue their upward trajectory of development.
2. In the AHL, it’s often very difficult to speculate on the potential of a team because you don’t know which players will be sent down after the NHL training camp. But, we did get an interesting piece of information from head coach Jeff Daniels published on this website earlier this week when he indicated that the team would alter their style of play in order to better mirror the system implemented in Raleigh. Daniels said this would help the players with an easier transition when playing for both teams during the year. Though this subtle change may not stand out on paper, it certainly will mean a much different team on the ice.
3. In order to better break down these changes, we will be interviewing former Checkers head coach and current Sr. VP of Hockey Business Operations Derek Wilkinson in the coming weeks. He can also provide a player-by-player analysis as to better understand what the 2012-13 season has in store. We will upload that interview to our YouTube page when it’s completed. If you haven’t already watched a very good interview with team owner Michael Kahn, you should do that too.
4. We are looking forward to announcing a radio station deal and continuing our wildly successful television relationship with Time Warner Cable.
5. Three years in the league and the Checkers are going into their third division. Not sure if this makes that much of a difference other than we can play more games in Houston and that means more intermission score updates from my uncle.
6. I remember watching Marc-Andre Gragnani in Portland two seasons ago. He was the most effective player in the offensive zone for the Pirates. It will be very interesting to see how things shape up on the blue line for the Canes this season and what ramifications it will have for Charlotte. The Checkers don’t have many puck moving defensemen.
7. I’d like to note how pleased I am that both Brett Sutter and Nic Blanchard are returning to the Hurricanes system again. You can’t win without those two down here.
8. As it stands right now, John Muse will be the team’s No. 1 goaltender. He’s going to have to prove once again that he is a bona fide AHL goaltender. There is no veteran signed to tandem with him and that’s a lot of pressure, although it seems like he thrives and elevates his game when the moment is most important.
9. I will definitely miss not having Chris Durno and Matthew Pistilli around this season. Both guys are class acts and I wish them best of luck this upcoming season.
10. A.J. Jenks likes to go fishing. I don’t get it.