Better Know An Affiliate: Arizona Coyotes

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As we get ready for the the 2014-15 season, it may be time to get yourself reacquainted with your team’s minor league affiliates and what could be in store for your team should they need a call-up or two. I’ll go through them team by team in hopes that this enlightens some people to their affiliate teams. Today, we’ll delve into the Arizona Coyotes with their affiliates in Portland, Maine and Gwinnett, Georgia.

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PORTLAND PIRATES
Affiliate Since: 2011-12
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 2,907 miles

Last Season: (24-39-3-10, 5th in Atlantic Division, 15th in Eastern Conference)

From the start, the Pirates were in a bind with their home arena being not only renovated, but the team being in a lease dispute with Cumberland County, Maine. They were forced from their home building to play in Lewiston, then playing in their practice facility at the end of the season because the Lewiston arena was double-booked.

That said, giving up the most goals in the AHL probably didn’t help the team either. Both Louis Dominque and Mark Visentin saw a lot of rubber last season and let in a lot of it, too– posting a 3.63 and 3.25 goals against average respectively. Can’t put all the blame on the goalies when the vast majority of the team was in the minus, sometimes in double digits. They left a lot to be desired in terms of defense, despite Brandon Gormley putting up 29 assists and 35 points in 54 games.

One of the few bright spots was the play of Andy Miele, who lead the team in assists (45) and points (72), while rookies Lucas Lessio and Tobias Rieder were the top two in goals for the Pirates. Despite giving up the most goals, the Pirates had 222 of their own, which put them to the middle of the pack for the AHL and 3rd most among non-playoff teams, even with them finishing last in the entire league.

Leading Scorers: Andy Miele (27g, 45a), Lucas Lessio (29g, 25a), Tobias Rieder (28g, 20a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: Due to weakness on the left side, Lessio could see some call up time if he doesn’t beat out others for the fourth line duty out of camp. The same goes for Gormley, who looks to be the seventh defenseman. Vistentin could see some back-up time, should current back-up Devan Dubnyk falter behind Mike Smith.

Outlook: There should be some new blood in the Pirates line-up with Max Domi and possibly Brendan Perlini being in Portland for some, if not all of the season for 2014-15. The biggest thing will be to tighten up the defensive side of the ice, which could mean better zone coverage or having Dominque or Visentin step-up from last year’s debacle of a performance. After finishing last in the league in 2013-14, as well as their home in Cumberland County being back– the team can only go upward this season.

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GWINNETT GLADIATORS
Affiliate Since: 2011-12
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 1,880 miles

Last Season: (29-38-3-2, 5th in South Division, 11th in Eastern Conference)

Using 57 players, even in the ECHL, won’t provide much stability and the Gladiators showed that last season. With no consistency in their line-up because of the injuries in Portland and Arizona; the Gladiators had to make do with what they had in their line-up.

Offensively, the Gladiators didn’t have anyone with over 43 points, but did have eight players with 15 goals or more on the season. Brendan Walker (22) and Marshall Everson (21) were the only two Gladiators with 20 or more goals, which showed that the offense had to come from anywhere when you didn’t have a guy with more than 25 goals in a year.

Maybe one of the big issues with the Gladiators is that 13 of the 57 different players were goalies. Only two of the 13 goalies didn’t register a win with the Gladiators– Nick Niedert and Josh Unice. Mark Guggenberger, a late season addition from Alaska, lead the team playing 16 games and leading with 10 wins. Defensively, Eric Springer brought some stability on the blue line with solid two-way play after being acquired from Ontario.

Leading Scorers: Marshall Everson (21g, 22a), Joey Haddad (18g, 24a), Maxime Legault (17g, 25a)

Possible Frequent Flyers: If last year was any indication, you can bet that the goaltending could be as shifty as ever, which could lead to someone like Guggenberger going up and down. Casey Pierro-Zabotel could build off his late season stretch of almost a point-per-game and get some looks from Portland or some other organization, as he is only signed to an ECHL contract.

Outlook: Despite the loss of Haddad to the United Kingdom; Everson, Pierro-Zabotel, and Legault could very well be enough to provide the offensive punch the Gladiators need to get by and get better. Should they lock down a solid goalie, then the team can build from the net outward. Luckily, they’ll have a proven minor league leader in Sean Berkstresser in the line-up for the season, which could be great for the younger guys who are still trying to find their way.

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