At 3 P.M. on Thursday afternoon we should finally get our first look at the 2011-2012 American Hockey League regular season schedule. The proposed schedule is pending league approval by the Board of Governors, but as far as I know, there shouldn’t be anything holding back its release.
Ryan has already mentioned a few dates that are already penciled in as Bradley Center contests, but here are a few things that I will be keeping my eye on.
1) How will the AHL handle the Rochester Americans and the Charlotte Checkers?
Last season Rochester played in the Western Conference, but only halfheartedly, with a large portion of its schedule being teams from the East. Rochester changed hands in the off-season, becoming a part of the new big budget beast in the East–the Terry Pegula-owned Buffalo Sabres franchise.
This season another geographically eastern team moves west, and not even to a primarily “eastern” West Division, but into the Midwest Division. Charlotte is over 14 hours by bus from Milwaukee, and over 13 hours from Peoria, which is its closest geographic rival. Obviously, the Checkers will be racking up the frequent flier miles this season.
I expect more of the same with a hybrid style schedule for Charlotte and Rochester, but it becomes more difficult with two teams to take care of instead of one.
2) Division Games vs. Conference Games vs. Inter-Conference Games, how will that shake out?
I have yet to see how the AHL is planning on breaking down the actual team slates. With the two obvious outliers in Charlotte and Rochester, and the five West Division teams being so far away from everyone but themselves, it will be curious to see how this breaks down. I still expect unbalances to be prevalent, but the AHL loves Division games. Just how many will there be in 2011-2012?
3) The Abbotsford question?
In case you have forgotten, there still is one team in the AHL located no where near any other–the Abbotsford Heat (as long as you forget that there is now a team in Newfoundland). Travel expenses for this franchise will border on ridiculous in 2011-2012 no matter how you breakdown the schedule.
Lets also not forget Milwaukee’s strange scheduling with the Heat over the past two years. Will the Admirals even get to see Abbotsford in the calender year of 2012? I am assuming Milwaukee’s players would prefer to get that road trip out of the way earlier rather than later, but a late date at Abbotsford could be a difficult thing to contend with.
So Roundtable, what are looking for in the schedule to be released tomorrow?