As we get ready for the the 2014-15 season, it may be time to get yourself reacquainted with your team’s minor league affiliates and what could be in store for your team should they need a call-up or two. I’ll go through them team by team in hopes that this enlightens some people to their affiliate teams. Today, an organization who hasn’t had the best track record with minor league affiliates, the Calgary Flames, and their affiliates in Glens Falls, New York and Loveland, Colorado.
Affiliate Since: 2005-06 (Moved from Abbotsford, Quad City, and Omaha)
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 2,377 miles
Last Season: 43-25-5-3, 2nd in West Division, 5th in Western Conference
In their last season in Abbotsford, British Columbia, the then Heat had their best season in terms of wins, points, and goals for. However, they were unable to get out of the first round. With Calgary’s youth movement, the Heat were able to have their own youth movement — which yielded solid play from Markus Granlund and Corban Knight, who were in the top-5 in team scoring. Leading goal-scorer Ben Street was the only Heat player who played most of the season in Abbotsford who had over a point per game with 28 goals and 60 points in 58 games.
Another big boost for the Heat last year was the play of rookie Joni Ortio, who in 37 appearances had 27 wins. Ortio was also top-six in wins, GAA, and save percentage amongst all goalies in the AHL. That allowed him to get some call-ups from Calgary, leaving the likes of Joey MacDonald and and Olivier Roy to shoulder the load with him gone, those two combining for 10 wins in Ortio’s stead.
On the blue line, Chad Billins filled into his own with a solid offensive season, which earned him a call-up late into the season to Calgary. Billins’ 31 assists in 65 games lead the defensemen, while John Ramage was the stay-at-home role for the blue liners. Most of the defensemen got calls up to Calgary with Tyler Wotherspoon, Derek Smith, and Chris Breen seeing some time in the Flames line-up.
Leading Scorers: Max Reinhart (21g, 42a), Ben Street (28g, 32a), Markus Granlund (25g, 21a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Obviously, Ortio is going to have an open ticket to get to wherever Calgary is playing should Jonas Hiller or Karri Ramo gets injured. However, it will be competitive for guys to get spots, especially with Calgary still in a transition time. Could see another year of Sven Baertschi travelling to and from, though this could be the last year for that overall.
Outlook: The move from Abbotsford to Glens Falls is two-fold. It’s great because they’re closer to the rest of their division and won’t have to travel too, too much. However, the guys are going to be further away from their parent club in Calgary, which could cause jetlag should a player be going back and forth a lot. Yet, there’s going to be a big fan base ready for hockey in Glens Falls after almost not having a team for this season. The play of the likes of Ortio, Knight, and even journeyman Corey Locke could convert the Glens Falls faithful to Flames fans quicker than they could have hoped.
Affiliate Since: 2014-15
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 1,036 miles
Last Season: 33-26-7-5, 5th in Western Division/Conference
After getting off to a quick start, the Eagles wained down the stretch, maybe due in part to knowing that they were going to make the playoffs regardless of how they finished with only eight team in their conference. That said, with a blazing start brought a lot of life to the team, despite the finish not being as they may have wanted.
Probably the biggest issues is goalies not being able to keep the puck out of the net. The trio of Marc Cheverie, Adam Brown, and Dustin Butler all had GAA of over 2.50 (respectively: 2.66, 2.98, and 3.24), but save percentages under .900. (.897, .896, and .893).
In order to counteract that, the Eagles had four 20+ goal-scorers in Kyle Ostrow, Trent Daavettila, Kevin Ulanski, and Luke Fulghum. There was some other distribution amongst the line-up, but nothing that was terribly groundbreaking. The tandem of Kevin Young and Mark Nemec were a great balance with Young being the puck-moving offensive force, while Nemec was the stay-at-home type. Further on the blue line, Dan Johnston brought some points, but his defensive zone coverage left something to be desired as he ended with a minus-28 on the season.
Leading Scorers: Kyle Ostrow (28g, 38a), Trent Daavettila (22g, 44a), Kevin Ulanski (23g, 40a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: While the Flames are there to support the team with some prospects, odds are a lot of the Eagles are under ECHL contracts. Some big candidates to move up in the AHL could be defenseman Teigan Zahn who made great strides last year, as well as incoming goaltender Clarke Saunders who will be looked at as a short term solution for an AHL team if injuries or call-ups effect them.
Outlook: The support from the Flames, no matter how big or small, will be a good addition to the Eagles organization, who are one of the better run teams in the ECHL. With the addition of Saunders, the goaltending will be much improved as Saunders is coming off a solid college run between University of Alabama-Huntsville and University of North Dakota. Veteran leadership should be there as well, with Jason Beatty, Kevin Ulanski, and former NHLer Darryl Bootland in the fold for this coming season. There will be a big crux to keep the puck out of the net for the Eagles, but the resources should be there to make 2014-15 better than last season.