As of Monday, here is the current West Division standings with each team’s remaining games:
1) MILWAUKEE: 94 points, (Games Played: 73, record: 40-19-6-8). Remaining Games: vs. San Antonio, vs. Houston, vs. Peoria, vs. Grand Rapids, vs. Texas, at Peoria, vs. Grand Rapids.
2) Houston: 94, (GP: 76, 44-26-1-5). RG: vs. Chicago, at Milwaukee, at Chicago, vs. Oklahoma City.
3) Texas: 88, (GP: 73, 39-24-4-6). RG: vs. Chicago, at Oklahoma City, vs. Rockford, at Peoria, at Milwaukee, vs. Oklahoma City, at San Antonio.
4) Peoria: 83, (GP: 74, 38-29-2-5). GR: at San Antonio, at San Antonio, at Milwaukee, vs. Texas, vs. Chicago, vs. Milwaukee.
5) Chicago: 83, (GP: 74, 37-29-3-6). RG: at Houston, at Texas, vs. Houston, at Peoria, vs. San Antonio, vs. Rockford.
6) Oklahoma City: 83, (GP: 75, 36-28-2-9). GR: vs. Rockford, vs. Texas, at San Antonio, at Texas, at Houston.
7) San Antonio: 81, (GP: 73, 38-30-3-2). GR: at Milwaukee, vs. Peoria, vs. Peoria, vs. Rockford, vs. Oklahoma City, at Chicago, vs. Texas.
North Division teams that could prevent a crossover:
Hamilton: (third place in North Division) 83, (GP: 72, 37-26-2-7). GR: vs. Abbotsford, vs. Abbotsford, at Lake Erie, vs. Manitoba, at Abbotsford, at Abbotsford, at Manitoba, at Manitoba.
Toronto: 81, (GP: 74, 35-28-1-10). GR: vs. Syracuse, vs. Lake Erie, vs. Manitoba, at Lake Erie, vs. Rochester, vs. Abbotsford.
Grand Rapids: 80, (GP: 74, 35-29-2-8). GR: at Abbotsford, at Abbotsford, at Milwaukee, vs. Abbotsford, at Rockford, at Milwaukee.
Abbotsford: 78, (GP: 71, 34-27-4-6). GR: at Hamilton, at Hamilton, vs. Grand Rapids, vs. Grand Rapids, vs. Hamilton, vs. Hamilton, at Grand Rapids, at Lake Erie, at Toronto.
So which teams make the playoffs/fall out of contention?
Safely in: Milwaukee, Houston, Texas, Hamilton. Milwaukee’s favorable schedule should result in the Admirals reaching the top spot, followed by Houston and Texas which could easily flip-flop. With eight games left, Hamilton should grab the North’s third slot or second slot barring a disaster against Abbotsford, a team the Bulldogs play four more times this season in a bizarre case of scheduling.
Bubble teams that will make the playoffs: Chicago, San Antonio. I still see five West Division teams getting into the playoffs. The veteran Wolves, which tread water all season, should squeak in as the last team out of the West. Whether that means Chicago will face the top of the West Division or the top of the North, neither opponent will be too thrilled for that match up. The Rampage face two critical games at home against Peoria this week. With regulation wins in both of those games, San Antonio could basically punch its playoff ticket.
Teams that will have their playoff bubble burst: Peoria, Oklahoma City, Toronto, Grand Rapids, Abbotsford. In the case of Oklahoma City, their demise has much to do with having key personnel up with Edmonton. I wonder why the Oilers’ leadership doesn’t wish for those players to get some AHL playoff experience. Peoria, which recently led the West Division, is in the middle of a March swoon. The Rivermen need a last stand at San Antonio and hope Milwaukee coasts in their two contests with the Admirals.
As far as Toronto and Grand Rapids, the Griffins have six games remaining, including three games against Abbotsford and two at Milwaukee. Grand Rapids could make some noise with a full roster, but I see them running out of games. With Toronto missing key personnel, I see the Marlies falling short despite a favorable schedule in the final stretch.
The Heat are most intriguing team of all. Abbotsford still has nine games remaining, the most of any AHL team, including eight against fellow North Division bubble teams (Four games against Hamilton and three against Grand Rapids). The Heat sit five points below the Western Conference’s current playoff number, but with a hot finish Abbotsford could easily catch the pack. The Heat are certainly a team to keep an eye on, even if the Admirals haven’t played Abbotsford since the ninth game of the season on October 30.
So Roundtable, which teams do you think make the playoffs and which teams end up just short? Am I underestimating Peoria, Oklahoma City, Toronto or Grand Rapids?
I give Milwaukee a 75% shot of finishing first in the Western Conference. Is that number too high, too low, or just right? How many points will it take to clinch the top spot?
How do you see the Admirals finishing out their remaining schedule?