In the midst of all the changes in the AHL for next season, the league rolled out their new divisional alignments for next year and it follows a model of the NHL. In the 30-team league, there will be four divisions. The each conference will still have 15 teams in it, one division with eight teams, another with seven; as seen in the picture above. While the playoff format will be determined in early July at the Board of Governors meeting; this does put some things to rest.
First, it shows that the Pacific Division won’t be just the California teams and won’t be having a shortened schedule as many people thought it could be. That definitely helps, especially since having one division out of the six play a shorter schedule and still have the same playoff likelihood would be a bit crazy. Plus, it keeps the two Texas teams together, thus grouping the areas together; while also leaving room for what the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes may do with their AHL affiliates and some day– what the Vancouver Canucks and possible Seattle expansion/relocation team will do.
Second, it streamlines almost to what the NHL has and with the ideal of the NHL playoff format being implemented in the AHL (top-three teams in each division, two wild cards per conference), that just adjusts coaches, teams, players, and everyone around to adjusting to the NHL; especially since it’s not just the players who try to adapt when being called up, but also executives and coaches as well.
Yet, the one problem that remains is how screwed over the Charlotte Checkers got. This team stays in the Western Conference, despite being the team furtherest east in that division and now dealing with quite a longer haul with California being put into the mix. For all intents and purposes, they could have been moved to the Eastern Conference and have eight teams in the division for the Eastern side and only seven a piece in the Western. Why the AHL didn’t do that– I’ll have no idea and may have to question it all.
All in all, it’s a smart move for the AHL and helps quell the idea that the California teams would be pampered because they were so far disconnected to the rest of the teams in the league. Plus, makes more sense than what the ECHL has done with their re-alignment.