Calgary Flames ready for own AHL team
There has been so much to talk about over the holidays, but like everyone else, I haven't had a chance. There was news on the 23rd about the Flames finally getting their own AHL team, and while it'll be only a tiny blip on the hockey news radar, this is a big deal for the Flames.
During Calgary's playoff run last year, I couldn't help but think about how much stronger the team's depth would be had they had their own minor league franchise. When a couple of Flames defensemen went down in the first round, Calgary had very few options for replacements and were forced into playing Brennan Evans, a guy who was never drafted and had seen little icetime in the minors. Had another blueliner went down, the Flames would likely have been looking towards the ECHL for a replacement, which isn't a situation an NHL team headed towards the finals should be in.
Of course, there are a handful of teams that shared affiliates last season (Colorado among them), but I would argue that not having a designated team hurts any squad's depth. Prospects need to develop at a high level of pro competition in order to be suitable fill-in NHL players, and the ECHL isn't really adequate preparation. It's good news for the sharing clubs, then, that the AHL is expanding to 30 teams by 2005 to accomodate every NHL team.