(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.) Heading into the 2014-15 campaign, there are two major questions the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fans are going to want answered: can new coach Mike Sullivan help the Penguins get over the hump and into another Calder Cup final and will goaltender Matt Murray have another remarkable season between the pipes for the baby Pens? In two of the past three seasons, Wilkes-Barre has made it to the Eastern Conference final, and were it not for drawing the eventual-Calder Cup champion Manchester Monarchs in the second round — a team that was dominant from start to finish this past AHL season — it could have been three straight appearances in the conference final. Problem is, however, when the Penguins have reached the conference final, they’ve come up short. In 2013-14, they were bounced in six games by the St. John’s IceCaps and in 2012-13 they lost in five to the Syracuse Crunch. But with a replenished roster, maybe the Penguins make another deep run this season and finally get over their final post-season hurdle. For the 2015-16 campaign, the club brought back 23-year-old playmaker
Conor Sheary, who led the team in scoring this past season with 20 goals and 45 points in just 58 games. They also added wingers
Kevin Porter and
Kael Mouillierat and defensemen
Steve Oleksy and
David Warsofsky. That’s not to mention the club brought over former captain of SHL’s Brynas,
Niclas Andersen. If everything goes right — and Murray doesn’t hit a sophomore slump — Sullivan may have a true contender on his hands in 2015-16.
Team History: The first stop for the franchise was in Fredericton, N.B., as the top affiliate of the Quebec Nordiques and Vancouver Canucks. Fredericton was awarded an expansion team, to be called the Express, in 1981 and the team would stay put in New Brunswick for seven seasons. In their final year, they made it to the Calder Cup final. However, their stay in the final was short-lived. The Hershey Bears swept the Express, and by that summer the club had relocated to Nova Scotia, where they would become the Halifax Citadels. The Citadels, like Express, didn’t last more than several seasons. After arriving in Halifax in 1988, the club made two consecutive post-season appearances as the Nordiques’ affiliate, but missed the playoffs the following three years. Following the team’s struggles, they moved once again, this time to Cornwall, Ont., where they would become the Aces in 1993. The Aces were only around for three seasons, including the Colorado Avalanche’s inaugural campaign in 1995-96. The Aces franchise was bought by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the summer of 1996 and the Avalanche moved their affiliation to the Hershey Bears. With the Aces now property of the Penguins, the franchise was dormant for three seasons before it was moved to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 1999 to become the AHL’s Penguins. Since relocating to Pennsylvania, the Penguins have been to three Calder Cup finals, but have come away empty handed in each. The franchise’s all-time leader in goals (138), assists (206) and points (344) is captain
Tom Kostopoulos. Kostopoulos, who has spent eight seasons with the team, is also the franchise’s all-time leader in games played with 478.
Logo History: The logos for each of Fredericton, Halifax and Cornwall are about as simple as it gets. Utilizing the Nordiques primary colors of red, white and baby blue, the logos were all very straightforward and very literal.
On the Express logo, an ‘E’ was stylized to look like the Nordiques crest and a crude outline of a train was in the background. For the Citadels, the logo was an outline of Fort George, the citadel which sits atop Citadel Hill in Halifax, with the town clock inside. And the Aces, well, it was four aces together within a circle that had a simple Cornwall word mark. If these logos were around today, they would have easily fallen to the 30-spot.
Current Logo: Since moving to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the franchise has gone in a new, bolder direction with the logo. Trouble is that the Penguins took the big club’s anthropomorphic logo, added what looks to be 150 pounds of muscle, made it look angrier and called it a day. That’s not to mention that when the Penguins switched to gold instead of yellow, Wilkes-Barre followed suit. The Penguins logo looks incredible in yellow and, honestly, the Wilkes-Barre looked better that way, too. There’s potential for the logo and some change would be a good thing. Maybe it’s time the Penguins give their AHL club a facelift.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)