Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Arizona Coyotes Buy Springfield Falcons, Plan to Move AHL Team to Tucson

Will they play only 68 games?
San Antonio was affiliated with Arizona several years ago. (Credit: Texas Stars)
The westward expansion of the league continues this morning. As was rumored last week, the Arizona Coyotes have purchased the Springfield Falcons and plan to move their newly-acquired AHL affiliate to Tucson, Arizona, for next season.

The American Hockey League started the westward move last year with the relocation of five teams, all owned by their affiliated NHL clubs, to California. There was and continues to be much consternation about the compromise that was reached to keep those teams in the league: fewer games played for just those five teams.

There are several outstanding questions as this move takes place. First, will Tucson play 68 games or 76? They weren't part of the bloc that moved en masse last season, which had the bargaining power to take their toys and go home if the league didn't agree to their terms. Tucson is just one team.

Further, the divisional alignment will take a hit. The league, which was balanced at 15 teams a piece, will shift to 16/14 if nothing else changes. It seems to make the most sense that Charlotte, which has been a good soldier for the league by going West for several seasons, would go back to the East. That would even up the conferences. Then you'd expect to see the Pacific, including Texas and San Antonio, have eight teams and be eligible for the crossover to the now-seven team Central.

Finally, this tips the balance in the league of NHL v. independently owned franchises. At 15 each after the purchase of Norfolk (by Anaheim) and Texas (by Dallas), it's now a 16 to 14 advantage for the NHL clubs.

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