AHL’s Rule Changes for the 2015-16 Season

New rule changes make on-ice officials cray. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It seems as if there is always something new to the hockey rule book and last season the AHL was a proving ground for a new overtime format. The NHL put a twist on that by mandating three-on-three only for overtime this coming season. Now it looks like the AHL will follow along to mirror things topside. Also, we’ve all finally been given that crucial answer to the Pacific Division mystery. What on Earth will the AHL be doing if Californian clubs play less games than the rest of the league?

Settle back, get something nice to drink, and brace yourself. Because I feel like some of this will feel a touch like a walk down Vogsphere.

Press Release via AHL:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League’s Board of Governors has concluded its 2015 Annual Meeting, held this week at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Chaired by AHL President and CEO David Andrews, the four days of meetings, which concluded Thursday, saw the approval by the Board of the following items to be implemented beginning in 2015-16:

Playing Schedule/Standings
• The 2015-16 regular season will consist of 1,120 games, played between Oct. 9 and Apr. 17. All teams will play 76 games each with the exception of the clubs which joined the AHL in January as part of the creation of a Pacific Division (Bakersfield, Ontario, San Diego, San Jose, Stockton); those five teams will play 68 games each.

• Teams will receive two points for a win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss. The top four teams in each division ranked by points percentage (points earned divided by points available) will qualify for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs, with one exception in each conference: if the fifth-place team in the Atlantic or Central Division finishes with a better points percentage than the fourth-place team in the North or Pacific Division, it would cross over and compete in the other division’s bracket.

• The 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs will feature a divisional playoff format, leading to conference finals and ultimately the Calder Cup Finals.

• The division semifinals are best-of-five series; all subsequent rounds are best-of-seven.

Rule 85 (“Overtime”)
• During the regular season, the sudden-death overtime period will be five minutes (5:00) in length.

• Full playing strength will be 3-on-3 (plus goaltenders) for the entire period.

• Overtime will be preceded by a “dry scrape” of the entire ice surface.

• Teams will change ends at the start of overtime.

• If the game is still tied following overtime, a winner will be determined by a three-player shootout.

Rule 79 (“Video Review”)
• A team may use a “coach’s challenge” to initiate an official video review; only those situations which are subject to review by rule may be challenged.

• A team may only request a coach’s challenge if it has its timeout available, and the coach’s challenge must be effectively initiated prior to the resumption of play.

• If the coach’s challenge does not result in the original call on the ice being overturned, the team exercising such challenge will be charged with a timeout.

Rule 76.4 (“Face-offs”)
• For all face-offs (excluding center ice), the defending player shall place his stick on the ice first; for face-offs at center ice, the visiting player shall place his stick on the ice first.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 14th year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2014-15.

You get all of that? Well let’s start with the simple one which is the new overtime format.


It’s essentially a simplistic take on last season’s added three-on-three. There will be no extra minutes. No numbers being reduced or anything silly. It begins with three-on-three overtime, five minutes, and -if overtime somehow manages to make it to a shootout- then things go to a best out of three shootout.

If the NHL and AHL were looking for ways to find a winner in open-play rather than a shootout this format should do wonders. The AHL’s overtime format last season had great results and I feel this should only amplify them. There is so much open ice in the three-on-three and the single biggest obstacle is players getting tired from shifts being so long as they race end to end without a true safe zone to make their change on the bench.

Most, if not all teams, typically went with two forwards and one defenseman in the three-on-three situation and I expect that to be the norm in both the NHL and AHL. While I found it ironic early last season that the move towards three-on-three was to avoid deciding games based on a skill show/shootout, because both are pond hockey like anyways, this still ended up being a great thing. Games can be decided from a defensive play or a high quality pass. As comedic as it can look, three-on-three does have enough variables to make ending a game past regulation have a bit more of an honest touch than a blink and you’re done shootout can provide. For our NHL readers that didn’t get a chance to watch the AHL do this last season the word that Milwaukee Admirals players used, specifically both goaltenders, was chaos. It is. And I suggest studying up on panic attack relief now as a preventative measure before the season begins.

~Coach’s Challenge~

This one excites me a bit. Though I feel some interpretations of on ice rulings may still cause this to be hit and miss (goaltender interference comes immediately to mind). Yet, this is still a ruling and addition to the game that has long been overdue in my book. Why wouldn’t you allow teams to challenge a controversial play on the ice?

I also appreciate the new dimension that gets added to the ice because of this added ruling. You have one timeout in the game of hockey. Just one. If you don’t burn it early in the game. You have the right to use your challenge. If you’re team has a crazy long shift and ices the puck – do you burn your timeout to save the players on the ice, and possibly a goal, or save the timeout in case you need to use video replay via the coach’s challenge later in the game? It’s a situation that will come up far more often now than you realize and I think more timeouts are going to get stored when icing calls go down now.



~Playing Schedule and Standings~

Confirmed: the Pacific Division’s Californian based teams will play less games and the rest of the league will not. Teams will still receive two points for a win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss. Now buckle up and re-read what the AHL has listed for how the standings and playoff format will work:

The top four teams in each division ranked by points percentage (points earned divided by points available) will qualify for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs, with one exception in each conference: if the fifth-place team in the Atlantic or Central Division finishes with a better points percentage than the fourth-place team in the North or Pacific Division, it would cross over and compete in the other division’s bracket.

I think the most basic way to think of the standings now is that it will be based on percentages rather that basic points. Rather than “we win (+2), we sort of win (+1), we sad face (+0)” it is now all about the current points standing divided by the maximum points amount possible at the given games played mark for each individual team. In other words, I wish the Admirals stopped playing games at the end of January this last season and coasted into the playoffs based on points percentage rather than carry on towards the miserable finish they had.

This seems alright enough, but I still find it appalling that the Californian based teams have been given less games on the schedule with an equal chance to make the playoffs against teams that have weathered the elements of a full schedule. It’s laughable and I would love for one or more of the Californian teams to make the playoffs and then win it all just to make a mockery of the situation. I’m going out on a limb now and saying next season’s schedule will probably drop to 68 games league wide.

Thoughts on the new rules from the AHL? Is the new standings and playoff format fair? Is it the best they could have done given the circumstances? How do you feel the full three-on-three overtime format will go? Will coach’s challenge be that big of a deal to the game of hockey?

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4 thoughts on “AHL’s Rule Changes for the 2015-16 Season”

  1. The percentage is garbage! If a California teams wins 30 games, a team that plays 76 games would have to win 34 games to be ahead of them .447 to .441. Four more wins to get a .006% advantage. Does that seem fair to the other 25 teams?

  2. Agreed. The percentage thing is not good, but I have no doubt the league was strong-armed into letting the CA teams play less games. It will suck if Lavender is right and the entire league drops down to 68 games.

  3. Agree with both previous comments. The CA teams will have 8 less games in their bodies in a physical sport.
    Conversely, they have 8 fewer games of team building game time.
    If Daniel is right and there is a reduction in games, I think a drop to 68 is drastic. Should there be fewer games played, maybe 72 or 74 if they have to.
    I think the AHL will have fans exhibiting withdrawal symptoms if 8 games are eliminated.

  4. All comments are how i feel 100%. It’s BS that first these teams are uprooted from some good fan bases and moved west just to play less games?! How are stats going to be fair? And further more they surely won’t play as many 3 in 3s. The real losers in all of this are the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage both teams in the same division playing more games than California teams and traveling more to play division games which im sure will be 91% of the schedule….. hope they both are 1 and 2 in that division.

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