Happy Monday, everybody. Or for those of you Game of Thrones fans *points at self* Still Not Very Happy About It… and it’s Monday.. Day.
There is quite the game on tonight. The Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to win the Stanley Cup in front of their home fans for the first time since 1938 – 77 years ago. Personally, I prefer to see a team win in front of their home fans. Should the Blackhawks win it I’d like them to get it done tonight. Should the Tampa Bay Lightning manage to play spoiler to that then I want them to cap things off Wednesday night in a Game 7 at home.
It is sad to think that the Stanley Cup is all that is left as far as hockey goes before the long hot ice melting summer that takes hockey away until the fall. The Manchester Monarchs won the AHL’s Calder Cup Saturday. The Allen Americans won the ECHL’s Kelly Cup on Sunday. It’s becoming a bit of a ticking clock for all NHL organizations to put their focus on off-season moves and the NHL Draft. When that time comes is when I expect plenty more actual news items to drop on both the Nashville Predators and Milwaukee Admirals end of things respectively.
~Rambling or Rant~
For those that follow along on Twitter I did touch upon this topic slightly but feel like I bottled a lot more up for today’s ramblings. Don’t follow along on the Twitter machine you say? What topic you ask? Why, this one:
AHL Commissioner David Andrews told me that California-based teams will play 68 games next year. Rest of the AHL plays 76.
— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) June 13, 2015
There was always going to be this annoyance of a topic and talking point with the Pacific Division coming to pass. Now it appears that the absurd notion of Californian AHL teams playing less games than the rest of the league will just be whimsically allowed to take course in the same manner in which the teams passed through in the first place.
Back when the Pacific Division first washed up as a concept it sounded fabulous for the NHL teams to be so close to their affiliates but a logistical nightmare for the AHL. These AHL teams based directly in California (Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, San Jose Barracuda, and Stockton Heat) can battle amongst themselves and traveling expense wouldn’t be too out of the question – much like say the Admirals trekking to places such as Cleveland, Des Moines, or Grand Rapids. Yet, what about lumping outsider franchises such as the San Antonio Rampage and Texas Stars into that division? Wouldn’t that mean traveling back and forth half-way across the country quite a few times? Well, yeah. Unless you schedule a multi-week set of games pitting Californian teams against Texas teams like a long long long playoff stretch. Even writing that causes me to believe the sheer scheduling chaos and travel ramifications just don’t work out in the end.
So the Californian based AHL outfits next season are expected to play eight less games than the entire league. What exactly does that mean? Truth be told, because it isn’t set in stone yet, I’m not all that certain. Do the Rampage and Stars effectively place first and second in the Pacific Division by way of being up 16 points from the get-go? Will one of these Californian teams do well enough to tie a playoff spot with a team that played eight more games and advance on a tiebreaking technicality? Who knows!
What I think irks me the most is this idea that it is better for an NHL franchise to be so close to their AHL base of operations to the point that it shoots the AHL in both feet. Is it a problem sending a player up and down from Manchester, New Hampshire to Los Angeles, California and back? Yes, it is a relative nuisance -but- I have to believe that scenario is the worst of the worst in having an affiliate further from NHL HQ. Communication with coaches, updates on player development, video on games and specific talent, discussions on business operations – these are all things in this day and age of technology that are moot points. So why precisely did the NHL owners behind this big Pacific Division move base to cripple the AHL and have teams and players on those teams playing less games in the regular season than everyone else? Je ne sais pas. That’s the last lick of French that I remember from high school and it means, “I don’t know.” I always knew that would come in handy.
Speaking of the “playing less games” part of this. Does that mean AHL players playing on these Californian teams make more money per game because they play less games? If so, is that incentive enough -along with the lovely weather I suppose- to sign for any of these franchises? Think of say a Gary Steffes type of player. You’re coming off of an incredible career best season that primarily happened a tier down in the ECHL. He signs for the shameless name shilling San Jose Barracuda. They play eight less games. He unfortunately gets hurt and now has even less time to layer together a solid season to prove his worth as an AHL level talent. Why a veteran player would choose to play for one of these organizations confuses me. Perhaps a local golf membership will be added to the contract?
It’s all a mess. Worse? It was always going to be a mess. My snarky logic has me thinking the AHL should slap a regulation loss for all games missed to all teams not willing to compete in a full 76 game AHL schedule. Want to play a 68 game schedule? Sure, but you’ll start the season 0-8-0-0 (0 points). Best of luck getting out of that immediate hole.
The whole thing seems a mess but the good news is that none of the above, per Jon Rosen‘s tweet, is set in stone yet. The AHL hasn’t come forth with an official document that says those teams are in fact playing less games than everyone else. It’s only been “reported” is all. Sadly, I expect it to be a matter of time. My only hope is that with that eventual press release and statement from AHL Commissioner David Andrews comes a thorough dissection of what it means for those teams and the rest of the league. There are so many red flags with specific teams playing less games than the rest while competing them that it begs for answers to all of them. And I anticipate the word “fair” to be brought up plenty.
What do you think of the Californian based AHL teams playing less games next season? Should it be allowed? What is the solution? Was the AHL held at gunpoint to the NHL for this to all fall into place? Should the rest of the AHL play less games with the Pacific Division or should the Californian teams be forced to cooperating with the rest of the league? Why didn’t the Abbotsford Heat play or demand to play less games when they were in operation?