The New AHL Schedule Format, and Things To Consider

You’ve most likely heard or seen about it by now, but just in case you haven’t, the rumors became truth in regards to the unbalanced schedule in the American Hockey League next season. Yes, I know I’m a week behind, but hey, I just got married. That’s a good excuse, right?

So anyway, we now know that the five California-based teams (Bakersfield, San Diego, San Jose, Stockton, Ontario) will play 68 games next season, while the remaining 25 AHL teams will play 76 games. We already knew that the California-based teams will be in the same division as the Texas-based teams, making it even a little bit more odd in that teams in the same division will be playing a different standard of games.

In order to combat that, the AHL announced that teams will be ranked by points percentage to determine playoff seedings, meaning that a California-based team will percentage points in a win, or lose more in a loss than any of the other teams in the league. The interesting change will be to see how the league determines tie-breakers for next season. In the three other divisions, it won’t matter much as they will have played the same amount of games. But for the Pacific Division, if Stockton were to tie with Texas, a tie-breaker of Regulation+OT Wins would be heavily weighted towards Texas.

The other interesting dynamic will come in the form of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the AHL and the PHPA. Players on AHL contracts will earn more money per game if they play for a California team, but also, they’ll face eight less games to affect their veteran status. Currently, if a player has played 260 or more professional games at the beginning of the season, they are considered a veteran. If they sit at 259 at the start of the season, they do not become one once the season begins.

Now, let’s take a player sitting at 190 games as an example. If he were to play an ironman season for the Chicago Wolves, playing in every single game of the season, he would end the season at 266 games and therefore making him a vet for the 2016-17 season. With the currently six-veteran limit on teams, it makes him a bit harder to place in the AHL. But, if he were to do the same thing for the Ontario Reign, he’d only be at 258 games and wouldn’t have to be constrained by the veteran status in 2016-17. With the CBA negotiations on-going for next season, it’ll be another interesting dynamic to see how or if it’s addressed.

Making a return next season with the now-four division league, is the crossover rule for the playoffs. The Oklahoma City Barons saw the benefits to this rule in the 2010-11 season, using it to make the playoffs in that season. The crossover allows the fifth place team in an eight-team division (the Atlantic and Central divisions this season) has a higher points percentage than the fourth place team in the seven-team division (the North and Pacific, respectively), the fifth place team crosses over and competes in the playoff in that bracket.

To describe that in simpler terms, we’ll use the Barons in 2011 as an example. The Barons finished in fifth place of the West Division with 91 points. The Abbotsford Heat finished in fourth place of the North Division with 86 points. Since the Barons finished higher, they moved over to the North Division bracket and took on the first seed Hamilton Bulldogs in the first round. To make mention of an earlier point, the tie-breaks will be interesting to look at next season.

It certainly looks odd next season, but as AHL President and CEO Dave Andrews told Sean Shapiro, nothing is set in stone beyond this season. More changes may be coming our way in 2016-17.

The AHL announces 2015-16 division alignment

With only one game on the American Hockey League schedule tonight, the AHL added news to the schedule as well as they announced the divisional alignment for the 2015-16 season. We already knew that the California teams would be a part of a new Pacific Division, but we weren’t quite sure what the makeup of it would be. Today, we got to find out.

A six-division league for the past few seasons, the biggest change now has the league returning to a four-division set-up. Gone are the West, East, Northeast, and Midwest divisions as they get replaced by the Pacific and Central divisions. The North division moves to the Eastern Conference and joins the Atlantic division.

As Manchester, Norfolk, and Worcester move to the West, the league moved Rochester, Utica, and Toronto to the East. The other interesting move has San Antonio and Texas joining the California teams in the Pacific Division.

Here’s how it now breaks down:

Atlantic Division: Bridgeport, Hartford, Hershey, Lehigh Valley, Portland, Providence, Springfield, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

North Division: Albany, Binghamton, Rochester, St. John’s, Syracuse, Toronto, Utica.

Central Division: Charlotte, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Iowa, Lake Erie, Manitoba, Milwaukee, Rockford.

Pacific Division: Bakersfield, Ontario, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose, Stockton, Texas.

With the rumors of the Pacific Division only playing 68 games next season, it’ll be interesting to see if Texas and San Antonio are included or if it will apply to the entire league. Interesting offseason on the way.

Matt Climie Heads Overseas

A goaltender that the Oklahoma City Barons have faced multiple times over the last five seasons will be pulling up his goalposts and heading to Germany next season. Announced today on YouTube and their website, the Straubing Tigers of the German DEL have signed Climie to a contract.

The 32-year old Climie began his career in the Dallas Stars organization, spending a couple seasons between the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL and the Iowa/Texas Stars (and even a playoff run with the Houston Aeros when Dallas was between AHL affiliates in 2008-09).

In 2010-11, Climie moved just a few hours south when he made the jump to join the then-Phoenix Coyotes organization, affiliated with the San Antonio Rampage. After one season there, Climie signed with Vancouver, joining the Chicago Wolves. When Vancouver left the Chicago affiliation, Climie stayed, signing AHL contracts to stay with the Wolves.

This season, Climie became the Chicago Wolves all-time leader in wins by a goaltender, passing Kari Lehtonen. Climie also holds the record for most wins in a single season for the Rampage.

Climie has played in 249 regular season games in the AHL, posting a career 2.57 goals against and a .914 saves percentage. Climie has also earned 15 shutouts throughout his seven years in the American Hockey League.

In Straubing, Climie replaces another former AHLer in Jason Bacashihua as he looks to take over the Tigers number one goaltender slot.

Good luck, Matt!

AHL Today: February 13, 2015

Pos Team GP Points Pts % Max Pts Pace Pts Pos Change
1 * – Oklahoma City Barons 47 66 0.702 124 107
2 * – Milwaukee Admirals 48 63 0.656 119 100
3 * – Utica Comets 47 62 0.660 120 100
4 San Antonio Rampage 47 58 0.617 116 94
5 Rockford IceHogs 48 58 0.604 114 92
6 Chicago Wolves 49 56 0.571 110 87
7 Grand Rapids Griffins 47 55 0.585 113 89
8 Adirondack Flames 48 54 0.563 110 86
9 Hamilton Bulldogs 48 54 0.563 110 86
10 Texas Stars 48 53 0.552 109 84
11 Lake Erie Monsters 47 51 0.543 109 82
12 Toronto Marlies 46 47 0.511 107 78
13 Rochester Americans 50 45 0.450 97 68
14 Charlotte Checkers 49 40 0.408 94 62
15 Iowa Wild 50 36 0.360 88 55
Pos Team GP Points Pts % Max Pts Pace Pts Pos Change
1 * – Syracuse Crunch 48 65 0.677 121 103
2 * – Manchester Monarchs 46 64 0.696 124 106
3 * – Hershey Bears 47 61 0.649 119 99
4 Springfield Falcons 49 60 0.612 114 93
5 Hartford Wolf Pack 48 59 0.615 115 93
6 WBS Penguins 50 59 0.590 111 90
7 Worcester Sharks 47 55 0.585 113 89
8 Portland Pirates 48 55 0.573 111 87
9 Providence Bruins 49 54 0.551 108 84
10 Albany Devils 48 53 0.552 109 84
11 St. John’s IceCaps 51 51 0.500 101 76
12 Lehigh Valley Phantoms 47 49 0.521 107 79
13 Bridgeport Sound Tigers 48 48 0.500 104 76
14 Norfolk Admirals 48 43 0.448 99 68
15 Binghamton Senators 47 42 0.447 100 68

AHL Today: February 12th, 2015

Updated Standings

Pos Team GP Points Pts % Max Pts Pace Pts Pos Change
1 * – Oklahoma City Barons 47 66 0.702 124 107
2 * – Milwaukee Admirals 48 63 0.656 119 100 ↑1
3 * – Utica Comets 47 62 0.660 120 100 ↓1
4 San Antonio Rampage 47 58 0.617 116 94
5 Rockford IceHogs 48 58 0.604 114 92
6 Chicago Wolves 49 56 0.571 110 87 ↑2
7 Grand Rapids Griffins 47 55 0.585 113 89 ↓1
8 Adirondack Flames 48 54 0.563 110 86 ↓1
9 Hamilton Bulldogs 48 54 0.563 110 86
10 Texas Stars 48 53 0.552 109 84
11 Lake Erie Monsters 46 49 0.533 109 81
12 Toronto Marlies 46 47 0.511 107 78
13 Rochester Americans 50 45 0.450 97 68
14 Charlotte Checkers 48 40 0.417 96 63
15 Iowa Wild 50 36 0.360 88 55
Pos Team GP Points Pts % Max Pts Pace Pts Pos Change
1 * – Syracuse Crunch 48 65 0.677 121 103
2 * – Manchester Monarchs 46 64 0.696 124 106
3 * – Hershey Bears 47 61 0.649 119 99
4 Springfield Falcons 49 60 0.612 114 93
5 Hartford Wolf Pack 48 59 0.615 115 93
6 WBS Penguins 50 59 0.590 111 90
7 Worcester Sharks 47 55 0.585 113 89
8 Portland Pirates 48 55 0.573 111 87
9 Providence Bruins 49 54 0.551 108 84
10 Albany Devils 48 53 0.552 109 84
11 St. John’s IceCaps 51 51 0.500 101 76 ↑1
12 Lehigh Valley Phantoms 47 49 0.521 107 79 ↓1
13 Bridgeport Sound Tigers 48 48 0.500 104 76
14 Norfolk Admirals 48 43 0.448 99 68
15 Binghamton Senators 47 42 0.447 100 68

What will the AHL divisions look like next year?

This map will be changing fairly soon.

The biggest debate now that the AHL West movement is about to be announced, is what will the divisions look like within the AHL next season. There’s a lot of possibilities of course, so I’ll tackle the ones that are being debated with my reasoning on why they’ll be in that spot. This is all going under the assumption that the league keeps the 15/15 split with the conferences, which could always change.

The California division (working name of course) will feature the five new teams making the trip to the West Coast. San Diego, San Jose II, Bakersfield, Ontario, and Stockton. Being as far west as they are, they’ll be seeing a lot of each other.

The current Midwest division features OKC, Texas, San Antonio, Iowa, and Charlotte. With as many teams moving west, I’m putting Charlotte in the east (one of the highly debated topics, I’ll go into it later). And we know by now that Oklahoma City is gone. Joining the Midwest, I’ve got Milwaukee and Rockford. As much as I tried to keep those two with Chicago, the only way that it probably could happen is if the league went with a 16/14 western favor split.

The North loses Rochester and Utica to the east and Adirondack to the move west, they gain Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, and Chicago to join Toronto and Hamilton. If you’re bussing from the east to play in Rockford or Milwaukee, you have to hit Chicago first, prompting my putting Chicago there.

And now we look at the East. In the East division, I’m putting Charlotte. Biggest reason I put Charlotte there, is they’re now an island in the southeast part of the country. This way, they go into a conference where teams are still close and they can get those road trips in easily. They replace the moving Norfolk team to join Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hershey, Lehigh Valley, and Binghamton.

The Northeast division, as much as I’d have loved to put Binghamton here to resurrect the “Empire” division, it didn’t fit well logistically. Rochester and Utica move east to join Syracuse, Albany, and Bridgeport.

And finally in the Atlantic, with Worcester and Manchester leaving, Springfield and Hartford shift over to join St. John’s, Portland, and Providence.

So to recap for the “too long; didn’t read” crowd:

California: Stockton, Bakersfield, San Diego, San Jose II, Ontario
Midwest: Texas, San Antonio, Rockford, Milwaukee, Iowa
North: Chicago, Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, Hamilton Toronto

East: Charlotte, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Binghamton, Hershey, Lehigh Valley
Northeast: Utica, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Bridgeport
Atlantic: Hartford, Springfield, St. John’s, Portland, Providence

Any changes you’d make? Let us know in the comments.

Minor League Shakeup: Where We Really Are Right Now

Over the past few days, there have been some articles laying out the author’s ideas for what they think would be a fine plan to make this minor league relocation/shakeup thing work. However, some of it doesn’t make sense, some of it can’t or won’t happen, but there are a few good ideas. The only problem is, most people aren’t very well versed on the happenings in the minor leagues. Here’s my attempt at trying to set some things straight, fill people in on what’s being said, and hopefully we can go from there.

The AHL West

Yes, people within the AHL have stated that there is an effort to move multiple franchises to the west in an effort to bring them closer to their NHL affiliates. There has been no word on exactly which teams are involved, or where they will be moving to. All of those so far have been rumors. There are eight Western NHL teams that do own their AHL franchises, of which are Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Dallas, Minnesota, and Winnipeg.

Early rumors stated that five teams were looking at moving their affiliations west, but more recent numbers have stated greater than that, but I have a hard time seeing many more than five or six moving west.

-Winnipeg is moving their franchise currently in St. John’s to Thunder Bay, Ontario in the upcoming seasons.
-Both Calgary and Vancouver moved their franchises to New York in the past couple years, but there has been word of out-clauses in their leases after so many seasons.
-The Dallas Stars just recently purchased the Texas Stars, and they don’t seem to be leaving the Lone Star State anytime soon.
-Minnesota recently moved their franchise to Des Moines, Iowa.
-The Oklahoma City Barons are already in the West, but the Oilers recently purchased the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL, (SPECULATION ALERT) thought to be a move in securing a west coast market.
-The LA Kings own the Manchester Monarchs (New Hampshire). They also have an ownership stake in the Ontario Reign of the ECHL.
-The San Jose Sharks own the Worcester Sharks (Massachusetts).

FYI: The other NHL-owned AHL franchises are owned by the New York Rangers (Hartford), New York Islanders (Bridgeport), New Jersey (Albany), Buffalo (Rochester), Pittsburgh (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), and Toronto (Toronto Marlies). The Hamilton Bulldogs are partly-owned by the Montreal Canadiens.

ECHL/CHL Merger

There’s not a whole lot known about this right now. The ECHL is set to begin next season as a 21-team league, and this season will introduce a re-aligned Western Conference that includes teams in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. Las Vegas is on a suspended status.

The Central Hockey League is currently a nine-team league, with one team in Brampton, Ontario, a clear outlying team compared to their counterparts in Midwestern states like Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

The predominant RUMOR in this situation is that the CHL ends up ceasing operations, with it’s franchises being absorbed into the ECHL. But again, not really a lot to go off of yet in this situation, and who knows where it could ultimately lead.

The Speculation

The biggest points of speculation in all of this is:

-The western markets in the ECHL and CHL will become AHL markets, with AHL franchises moving westward. There’s a lot of markets to choose from, and no real word on which ones they could be. Big money in the rumor mill is on all three California markets, Arizona, and quite possibly Las Vegas.

-The ECHL franchises that were replaced by AHL teams head east, and ultimately take over the markets that the AHL teams left. However, (SPECULATION ALERT) this also leaves open the possibility of other AHL teams taking over what could be seen as a more desirable AHL market.

Conclusion

-The biggest hangup in all of this could tie into what I mentioned earlier in the post, in that only about half of the AHL is owned by NHL teams. In order for a team like the Coyotes or Ducks to move their affiliation westward, they would have to purchase an AHL franchise or convince an independent owner to move.

-The one absolute truth in all of this? There are a lot of moving parts, and things change in an instant. It’ll happen when it happens, and until then, my advice is to take everything with a grain of salt.

AHL Today: Nicolas Deschamps heads to Finland

The Finnish Liiga’s Kärpät announced today that forward Nicolas Deschamps has been signed for the upcoming season. Deschamps spent last season with the Hershey Bears, scoring 40 points in 65 games. Deschamps made his NHL debut last season as well, playing in three games for the Washington Capitals, going scoreless. Deschamps was left unqualified this season, leaving him a free agent.

Hershey was the third AHL team that Deschamps played with during the past four seasons. His rookie campaign was with the Syracuse Crunch, where in 80 games he picked up 46 points. Just after New Year’s in 2012, Deschamps was shipped from the Anaheim Ducks to the Toronto Maple Leafs. In 71 games combined, Deschamps scored 37 points that season.

Deschamps was on the move again in 2012-13 as the Maple Leafs traded him to the Washington Capitals organization. That season, Deschamps only managed to score 23 points in 66 games, but his seven points in 16 games with Hershey earned him a one-year extension with the Caps.

AHL Today: Milwaukee signs Triston Grant, Rob Madore

Photo copyright Steven Christy Photography

The Milwaukee Admirals have signed forward Triston Grant and goaltender Rob Madore to one-year AHL contracts. Triston Grant has spent the past two seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins, winning the Calder Cup in the 2012-13 season. Rob Madore backstopped the Cincinnati Cyclones to the Kelly Cup Finals, earning playoff MVP honors.

The 30-year old Grant returns to the Admirals after four seasons, having spent time with the Rochester Americans, Oklahoma City Barons, and the Grand Rapids Griffins. This will mark Grant’s tenth season in the American Hockey League, where he has 127 points in 561 career AHL games. With 1565 career AHL penalty minutes, Grant has hit at least 100 PIM in each season he has played.

Prior to first stint with the Admirals, Grant spent three seasons with the Philadelphia Phantoms. He has 11 NHL games under his belt with both the Flyers and Predators. He earned one assist and 19 penalty minutes.

Madore joins the Admirals for his third full professional season. Last year, Madore earned call-ups to Charlotte and Binghamton, playing one game for the Checkers. He then signed an AHL deal for the remainder of last season with the San Antonio Rampage, playing in seven games for them. Madore earned a 17-12-1 record for Cincinnati during the regular season, while going 14-10 during the playoffs.

Madore spent the 2012-13 season splitting time between the Checkers, Florida Everblades, and the Evansville IceMen.

AHL Today: Kirill Gotovets signs with Rockford

The Rockford IceHogs have signed defenseman Kirill Gotovets to an AHL contract for the 2014-15 season. Gotovets has spent the last four seasons with Cornell University, scoring 19 points in 112 games throughout those four seasons. The 23-year old was drafted in 2009 by the Tampa Bay Lightning as the 183rd overall pick in the 7th round.

Gotovets made his professional debut last season with the Milwaukee Admirals, appearing in one game while on an Amateur Try-Out. The Minsk, Belarus-native played for the national team during the World Championships, going scoreless in seven games. In two previous stints with the team during the World Championships, he went scoreless in six games.

Prior to joining Cornell, Gotovets played with Shattuck St. Mary’s high school, scoring 59 points in 98 games.