With a 6-2-0 record, the Toledo Walleye are off their best start since 2009-10 when they 5-2-1 in their first eight games. This is a quite the departure from their start to last season when they didn’t get their sixth win until December 13th. Granted, last season wasn’t the best for the Walleye, as it was their worst season in the short history of the team and made Nick Vitucci step down from head coach. Under the Derek Lalonde‘s watch– the Walleye have been able to rebound very well.
Of course, in addition to that, the Walleye’s roster was ravaged last season when their dual affiliation really scorned the Walleye, as the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, along with their AHL affiliates (Rockford IceHogs and Grand Rapids Griffins, respectively) plucked the Walleye’s roster and made the chemistry hard to come by– which proved to be a recipe for disaster. Using 52 players last season and over 80 moves up and down, the Walleye saw first hand how the dual affiliation can be a great thing for talent, but proves to be bad news if injuries hit the rosters above them.
With the Walleye going with one affiliation in Detroit, they have seemed to even out their roster and in the early going are successful. Of course, the Red Wings were the main culprit in helping deplete the Walleye roster with guys going up and down from Grand Rapids due to injury; but that’s not withstanding to the point right now. This year, the Walleye won’t have to worry about two teams pulling players away and will allow Toledo to bring in some of their guys in as well to create some chemistry outside of the talent sent down to the ECHL. Though, you have to wonder if last year was just a blip on the radar, as the Walleye did have the dual affiliation with Chicago and Detroit since their first season in 2009-10, but it just seemed that it hit the team hard enough that they had to re-think having a dual affiliation in the middle of the season. Luckily for Toledo, the Indy Fuel came into the ECHL and the Blackhawks moved to them quickly; making the re-affiliating with the Red Wings a no-brainer and easier sell.
That has been the problem with ECHL teams in dealing with affiliations. A few years back at the old View From My Seats site, I wondered about teams and how they used their ECHL affiliations, which at the time in 2012 was mostly used for the goaltending logjams in net in the AHL. In as little as two years, that has expanded to highly touted skaters getting roster spots so they can develop while the AHL teams are jammed up. Of course, this could cause issues when a team gets injury riddled– as the Walleye did last year. With seven teams having dual affiliates this year, there are many more teams that could very well fall into the same issues Toledo did last season. On the flip side, there are only four teams who don’t have a NHL/AHL affiliation, while the Missouri Mavericks only have an AHL affiliate in the Chicago Wolves. Granted, most of them came from the CHL, who didn’t have many affiliations to the NHL to start– which does skew the number a bit.
Yet, there are still teams who have dipped their toes into the water before with affiliations and were bitten in the ass from it. The Fort Wayne Komets are a team who are very much in that category, but this year have seemed to been at ease enough to get into an affiliation with the Colorado Avalanche. Of course, the Komets upper brass had to be convinced by the Avalanche that it was going to be mutually beneficial to each side. So far, it’s going well for the Komets who are in 1st place in the Eastern Conference and one of their best players, Mitchell Heard, is a guy who was sent down by Colorado from Lake Erie of the AHL. It may not last forever, but the Komets can take this as a positive just from the on-set.
Granted, whether or not the trend of good times continue for the Walleye and Komets remains to be seen. There could be hiccups in the road or it could just be something where they can replenish their rosters easier than they thought should they get ransacked by their parent team. Also, who knows what could happen with those seven dual affiliate teams and those teams who don’t have an affiliation. The numbers will be something that could be interesting to keep track of throughout the season and then see if there’s any merit to being with just one team, two teams, or no teams.