While the rumors and talking has died down just a little bit, the idea of the AHL West is definitely still out there— especially as teams in the Pacific Division of the NHL gets injured in the beginning of the season, forcing them to fly prospects half-way across the country in order to join their NHL teams. With no AHL team west of San Antonio, Texas; the travel is just hellish for most prospects being called up, even if they’re on the road with their club.
In that respect, I’ve decided to give my theory of what could happen with the possible AHL West and who the NHL teams could use. The main function is that if the NHL team has ownership or affiliation close to an ECHL team, then it’ll be taken over as the AHL affiliate. Also, I tried to go ahead and use existing ECHL or dormant franchises to fill up the void rather than dip into a new market– like Fresno or San Diego, California. There is one exception and that is due to the rumors of what Winnipeg is going to do, which is cited below.
To start off, the Western Conference teams that will keep their current affiliates would be Chicago (Rockford IceHogs), Dallas (Texas Stars), Minnesota (Iowa Wild), Nashville (Milwaukee Admirals), and St. Louis (Chicago Wolves). Also, Edmonton (Bakersfield Condors) and Los Angeles (Ontario Reign) would take their ECHL teams and convert them to their AHL affiliates. That’s pretty much the end of the sane reasoning and goes onto my inane thoughts and ideas.
Off the hop, my feeling is that Anaheim would go to the Las Vegas and the revitalized Wranglers as their AHL affiliate, as one “Happiest Place on Earth” links up with another. Of course, this is part of the established market idea in my eyes, but should the Wranglers not get a new arena built, then the Ducks would have to look at a Fresno or San Diego for their new homes. The other California team in San Jose would logistically go for the Stockton Thunder as their affiliate as it is about 90 minutes away from the Sharks and since San Francisco didn’t really work out, smart idea to go for a closer, more successful area.
Up the line to Canada, Vancouver could very well go up the coastline and bring in the Alaska Aces as their AHL side, especially with Abbotsford being soured from the Heat being a bust for the community and parent team as a whole. For Calgary, I can only imagine having the Rapid City Rush being the closest idea for an AHL affiliate, especially with the Idaho Steelheads having a strong bond with the Dallas Stars. With Winnipeg, there has been long rumors that if Thunder Bay, Ontario can get a new area, they would pull the St. John’s IceCaps out of Newfoundland and Labrador and move themselves closer to their parent team in Thunder Bay.
The final two teams in the Western Conference with affiliate across the country are two teams that could bring back dormant teams. For the Coyotes, they could bring back the Arizona Sundogs and latch onto them, creating a big bond in the area and in name– both being close proximity to each other. The Avalanche are an interesting situation, as they could go two ways. The first way would be the smart money to bring in the Colorado Eagles, a team who is very successful in the CHL and ECHL, especially being the establish brand that they are. The other way, which would be far more crazy, would be to bring back the Denver Cutthroats, who went dormant this summer. For a team that could be closer than Loveland, Colorado (home of the Eagles), trying to bring back a team over an established one is very, very risky.
The biggest question is what would become of the AHL markets that would be abandoned by the NHL teams; the idea would to probably drop them down to the ECHL affiliate, but that would cause a little bit of issues back and forth for the AHL and ECHL getting players into and out of the system, which was documented by the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin in regards to the Binghamton Senators losing the Elmira Jackals as their affiliate and having the Evansville IceMen as their new affiliate.
Granted, some of these ideas are long-shots to happen, but when the AHL West happens (because it’s just a matter of time, logistics, and current leases/contract); this could be a possible layout for teams to guide them into having closer affiliates to get call-ups to them in a timely manner.