The hockey world doesn't take time out to enjoy Canada Day and the Fourth of July with July 1 being the start of free agency. Let's take some time today to catch up on what you might have missed over the weekend.
By far the biggest story of the weekend was announced yesterday, the realignment of the AHL into six 5-team divisions. With thirty teams, four divisions were no longer enough to properly setup the playoff race. Texas will now play in the West Division with Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio and Abbotsford. Playoff seeding will be performed just like the NHL, with the top three seeds going to division winners and the next five being seeded by their total points. For full divisional alignment, check out TheAHL.com's story on the matter.
If you look at the West Division around the February to March time frame, you'll see a perfect example why this change was needed. Anyone of the teams in the eight-team West Division with the exception of last place Rockford would have made the playoffs in the North Division for much of those months. However, two of the West Division teams would have been left out in the cold despite having better records than North Division playoff clubs.
This is a good change for the AHL at first glance. When the schedule breakdown is released in the next few weeks, we will get more clarity on how much balance the new alignment will bring to the league. If Texas yet again does not play Rochester, a team in its own conference, and other such travesties, the realignment will have failed.
In other news:
- Free agency was this weekend and several Texas Stars were signed away. Among those leaving the fold were Aaron Gagnon and Greg Rallo. Gagnon signed a two-year deal with Winnipeg, the second year of which is one-way. Rallo signed a two-way deal with the Florida Panthers and will likely be playing for the Rampage.
- The Dallas Morning News reports that the Stars are done in free agency, which likely leaves Texas Stars Trevor Ludwig, Raymond Sawada and Brent Krahn looking for jobs elsewhere.
- Dallas signed Jordie Benn and Ryan Garbutt to two-way deals this weekend. Jordie Benn has now worked his way up from the ECHL and CHL to an NHL deal. Ryan Garbutt is a nice addition for Texas as well. Garbutt scored 37 points for Chicago and led one of the worst clubs in the division in plus/minus in his rookie year.
- With the signings of Adam Pardy and Sheldon Souray in Dallas, the NHL club has seven big league defenseman on their roster (Robidas-Goligoski, Souray-Grossman, Pardy-Daley, Fistric). This means that Philip Larsen will likely start the year in Cedar Park.
- Vacation got in the way of my being at development camp this year, but Defending Big D and ESPN Dallas have been all over it. Additionally, Brenden Dillon (@BDillon5) and Alex Guptill's (@AlexGuptill) Twitter feeds have been keeping us all up to date with inside info. Glad to see that off-ice bonding is a key part of the dev camp experience. From Brenden Dillon:
What do you get when you put 28 hockey players in a room and tell them to perform improv and incorporate some personal stories?? #didhereallysaythat #sofunny