Feb. 5 targeted as start date for 2020-21 season Details

Checkers not letting roster turmoil slow them

Photo: Caroline O'Connor

by Nicholas Niedzielski | AHL On The Beat

Since the unfortunate injuries to Carolina Hurricanes goaltenders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer on Feb. 22, here’s how the Charlotte Checkers’ transactions have looked:

Carolina recalled Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic from Charlotte. Charlotte recalled Callum Booth and Jeremy Helvig from the ECHL. Carolina traded away Chase Priskie, Eetu Luostarinen, Janne Kuokkanen and Fredrik Claesson. Charlotte signed Mark Cooper, Blake Winiecki and Boston Leier to PTO’s from the ECHL. Tampa Bay added Mike Condon to the Charlotte roster. Charlotte assigned Helvig to the ECHL. Charlotte acquired Alexis D’Aoust. Montreal added Keith Kinkaid to the Charlotte roster. Tampa Bay recalled Condon. Charlotte traded away Cedric Lacroix and Terry Broadhurst to acquire Ryan Bourque.

It’s been quite the week, to say the least.

“It’s definitely been interesting,” said Checkers head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “It’s been a challenge with guys coming and going. We had an idea that it could potentially happen, any coach in this league would tell you that. When an NHL team is going for it like Carolina is, you have a feeling it could happen and now we have to come together as a group and deal with it.”

An added wrinkle for the Checkers is that they were in the midst of a grueling road trip as this roster turmoil was going on.

“It was tough being on the road,” said Warsofsky. “But it was also good because now it’s just you and the group. We did a little team building with the practice outside in (Pennsylvania), I thought that was important especially after a weird game on Tuesday. Just to get our minds away and have some fun playing the game that we all love.”

With the majority of bodies going out the door at the NHL trade deadline, the Checkers had to move quickly to replenish their team ahead of a busy four-game week on the road.

“[Carolina VP of Hockey Ops] Paul Krepelka, [Charlotte VP of Hockey Ops] Derek Wilkinson and myself, we tried to do the best job we could to get bodies in here,” said Warsofsky. “Those guys did a good job of coordinating it all and getting the guys there in time.”

The fallout of all those moves doesn’t just affect things on the ice. Having gone through so much together by this point of the season, watching well-liked players depart can be tough.

“Trading Broadhurst, for example, was difficult,” said Warsofsky. “It’s never easy to call a guy that’s one of our leaders and has come in and given us some really good hockey. He’s a great human being first and foremost. In my eight years of coaching the hardest call I’ve ever had to make was telling him he’s been traded because I know how bad he wanted to be here. But that’s the nature of the beast.”

Warsofsky has counted on the big voices in the room to help pull the team together through it all.

“I called Roland [McKeown] right after everything,” he said, referring to his captain. “It’s important that we lean on our leadership group.”

With all the dust finally settled, the Checkers don’t bear much resemblance to the team they were even a month ago. And while that may cause some to write them off, their blowout win over the division-leading Hershey Bears on Sunday is proof that this team is far from ready to pack it up.

“No one thinks we have a chance since Carolina made all those moves,” said Warsofsky. “But I know the guys in that room think we have a chance. The coaching staff believes we have a chance. I think it shows on Sunday that when you play as a team and you play with your identity that you can beat any team on any night. We’re going to stick together and keep grinding it out and playing the right way and that’s all we can do.”