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, we go through the Midwest with the Chicago Blackhawks with their affiliates in Rockford, Illinois and Indianapolis, Indiana.
Affiliate Since: 2007-08
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 85 miles
Last Season: 35-32-5-4, 4th in Midwest Division, 9th in Western Conference
For a fourth straight season, the Blackhawks top affiliate missed the playoffs and one of the reasons could be not keeping the puck out of the net. With 262 goals against, the IceHogs let in the 2nd most goals in the AHL. After Antti Raanta was called up by Chicago, the IceHogs pinned their hopes of the tandem of Jason Labarbera and Kent Simpson, who did their best to keep the IceHogs in playoff contention, but couldn’t help when facing about 30 shots a game and letting in three-and-a-half a game.
Though no fault of their own, the IceHogs were led by a defenseman in scoring, as Adam Clendening put up 59 points on the campaign leading the team and the defense. Of course, the Blackhawks had called up some of the more offensive output of the IceHogs, with Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin were point-per-game players in the AHL; but were called upon by Chicago to fill in for injuries during the season. Morin was the only 20 goal scorer on the team, with the Broadhurst brothers (Alex and Terry) trying to pick up some slack, but coming up short.
Overall, stopping the scoring was the biggest part, as the IceHogs defense gave up almost 33 shots a game, yet the biggest point of contention is the IceHogs penalty kill; which was last in the AHL with only a 72.3% efficiency, six percentage points lower than the 29th best team on the penalty kill.
Leading Scorers: Adam Clendening (12g, 47a), Jeremy Morin (24g, 23a), Alex Broadhurst (16g, 29a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: Depending upon what happens in camp, it could come down to Morin or Teuvo Teravainen to get the shift from up and down on the left wing spot to fill out the roster and make the injury fill-ins. Along with that, Mark McNeill could be on the radar for up the middle, though the Hawks will give him all the seasoning he needs after a decent, but overly impressive rookie season in the AHL.
Outlook: Fixing the special teams and defense is probably top priority for the IceHogs this coming season, though it’ll be in the hands of Kent Simpson and Michael Leighton to keep the puck out. Maybe with a full season of Ryan Hartman in the line-up could kick up the offensive side of thing, while Morin and Teravainen’s presence will be spotty at best, especially if they’ll be on the shuttle from Rockford to Chicago. Kyle Cuminsky could provide a solid leadership role to at least mold the likes of Clendening and Mathieu Brisebois.
Affiliate Since: 2014-15
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 182 miles
Last Season: This is the first season for the Indy Fuel. The expansion team bring minor league hockey back to Indianapolis for the first time since the Indianapolis Ice played in the Central Hockey League in 2003-04.
Possible Frequent Flyers: With this being a new team, many of the players now are just on ECHL contracts. Some trickle downs from the cuts made in Rockford camp will determine what the Fuel will be made of from the Blackhawks side of things.
Outlook: Obviously, the onus of an expansion team is that of just trying to do the best you can with what you have. Luckily, at the helm, the Fuel will have Scott Hillman; who had quite the successful run with his last team, which also started as an expansion team in the Missouri Mavericks of the CHL. The big thing also is that the Fuel will be the Blackhawks lone ECHL affiliate and they won’t have to share them, as they had for the past couple season in Toledo with Detroit.