Friday, October 28, 2011

Some NHL Clubs Floating the Idea of "AHL West" League

If you hadn't noticed, I use this picture a lot. It's almost like I don't have any other pictures of a current Star playing against the Eastern Conference... (Credit: Syracuse Crunch)
While Texas makes its way to Chicago and surely searches out a good place to watch tonight's Game 7 between the Rangers and Cardinals, some attention has been drawn today to the plight of west coast based NHL teams calling up players from the minors. TSN's Darren Dreger wrote in an article published yesterday that "several NHL western conference teams (incl. Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary) are involved in ongoing discussions to improve the geographic challenges some teams face in trying to develop their players from afar."

While most of the teams in that group are OK with their current affiliations and were simply looking for more travel days or better travel schedules, some advocate a more extreme approach, "the possibility of creating an entirely new league primarily based to serve some of the NHL's pacific and northwest division."

For teams like the Ducks (Syracuse, NY); Kings (Manchester, NH); and Sharks (Worcester, MA) this makes fantastic sense. For Dallas, a callup means jumping in the car and driving 3 hours to Dallas if you've got that kind of time. If not, jump on a Southwest flight to Dallas Love Field and you're good. For these other teams, you'd better have 24 hour notice. Moving some teams out West makes some degree of sense.

But then again, it doesn't. The first choice of who to move would probably be the lowest performing teams in attendance. Some of these teams are the longest tenured in the league, including Springfield, Rochester and Binghamton, who won a championship last year no less. Dave Andrews would be very hesitant to make a move for any of these franchises. Additionally, when you move teams out west, you introduce those two dirty words: "travel expenses". Every trip goes from a bus to a plane and that racks up pretty quickly. Or does it?

The ECHL is doing just fine and it's as spread out as can be. Granted, the Eastern Conference never plays the Western Conference during the regular season as a travel expense compromise. That's already the case for many West teams including Texas. Look at this map (click to zoom) and tell me why it's not possible for travel expenses to be overcome at the AAA level when the AA level can do this:I applaud the NHL clubs for having the exploratory meeting and would be intersted in hearing AHL Commissioner Dave Andrews' response to news of the meetings, but I have a sinking feeling that nothing will get done along these lines in the foreseeable future.

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