The AHL situation
We are, we are all affiliated
There are going to be, unbelievably, 29 AHL teams this season, which means affiliate-sharing will be down to an all-time low, with only Buffalo and Florida double-teaming the Rochester Americans.
The AHL added three teams this season, all equally colourful in name: Lake Erie Monsters, Quad City Flames and the Rockford IceHogs.
There's been an awful lot of movement in the AHL the past few years, so it's a tad tricky to chart where these teams have come from. Rockford was a long-time UHL team, although it's my understanding that they're coming by way of the defunct Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (even though they'll now be the Blackhawks' affiliate club). The Flames were in Omaha the past two seasons, and the Monsters are a revival of the Utah Grizzlies, who folded in 2005.
A look at every AHL team and their NHL counterpart(s):
|NHL Team(s)||AHL Affiliates||Lower Affiliates ('06-'07) |
|Anaheim||Portland Pirates||Augusta Lynx|
|Atlanta ||Chicago Wolves||Gwinnett Gladiators|
|Boston||Providence Bruins||Johnstown Chiefs|
|Buffalo, Florida ||Rochester Americans||Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs|
|Calgary ||Quad City Flames||Las Vegas Wranglers|
|Carolina||Albany River Rats||Florida Everblades/Arizona Sundogs|
|Chicago||Rockford IceHogs||Pensacola Ice Pilots|
|Colorado||Lake Erie Monsters||Johnstown Chiefs/Arizona Sundogs|
|Columbus ||Syracuse Crunch||Dayton Bombers/Youngstown SteelHounds|
|Dallas||Iowa Stars||Idaho Steelheads|
|Detroit ||Grand Rapids Griffins||Muskegon Fury/Toledo Storm|
|Edmonton ||Springfield Falcons||Stockton Thunder/Odessa Jackalopes|
|Los Angeles ||Manchester Monarchs||Reading Royals|
|Minnesota ||Houston Aeros||Texas Wildcatters/Austin Ice Bats|
|Montreal ||Hamilton Bulldogs||Cincinnati Cyclones|
|Nashville ||Milwaukee Admirals||Cincinnati Cyclones/New Mexico Scorpions|
|New Jersey ||Lowell Devils||Trenton Devils|
|N.Y. Islanders||Bridgeport Sound Tigers||Utah Grizzlies|
|N.Y. Rangers||Hartford Wolf Pack||Charlotte Checkers/Mississippi RiverKings|
|Ottawa ||Binghamton Senators||None|
|Philadelphia||Philadelphia Phantoms||Wheeling Nailers|
|Phoenix ||San Antonio Rampage||Phoenix Roadrunners/Laredo Bucks|
|Pittsburgh ||Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins||Wheeling Nailers|
|San Jose||Worcester Sharks||Fresno Falcons|
|St. Louis||Peoria Rivermen||Alaska Aces|
|Tampa Bay ||Norfolk Admirals||Mississippi Sea Wolves|
|Toronto||Toronto Marlies||Columbia Inferno|
|Vancouver ||Manitoba Moose||Victoria Salmon Kings|
|Washington ||Hershey Bears||South Carolina Stingrays|
I'm fairly certain I've said this before, but, as I'm sure Oilers fans can attest after last season, having an affiliate matters. You want to be able to control your farm system and have call-ups close whenever you need them, and it helps to have an AHL coach and GM who are onside with trying to develop prospects for the future. Minor-league coaching staff members are also often promoted to the big club, and there are some excellent hockey minds in the AHL (Randy Carlyle, for one, was coaching the Moose just two years ago.)
For some teams last season, the boost they got from their call-ups made a big difference in the standings, and I don't think that can be said for the teams without AHL affiliates of their own. A few NHL teams have even put their farm systems within the same city as the big team (Philadelphia and Toronto) in order to (a) save money and (b) facilitate quick call-ups.
Just a thought as we see the majority of camp hopefuls being reassigned to some of these new teams. If you want a really in-depth picture of teams' prospect systems and development, pay attention to the AHL.