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AHL Realignment Plans

On Thursday, the AHL announced that it would be moving five of its current teams out to California to form a new Pacific Division for the 2015-16 campaign. San Diego, Ontario, Bakersfield, Stockton, and San Jose were the lucky recipients. The teams that will be saying goodbye to their respective towns at the end of the season are the Worcester Sharks (San Jose), the Norfolk Admirals (San Diego), the Adirondack Flames (Stockton), the Oklahoma City Barons (Bakersfield), and the Manchester Monarchs (Ontario). The AHL has yet to release a realignment plan, but I’ve taken care of that for them. Below is how the new AHL divisions would look if they kept their current two-conference/six division approach:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

NORTH DIVISION

-St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg Jets affiliate)

-Albany Devils (New Jersey Devils affiliate)

-Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks affiliate)

-Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate)

-Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres affiliate)

 

St. John’s isn’t near anyone geographically, so as long as they aren’t in the Western Conference, they’re fine. Having four of the five New York state-based teams together should breed some rivalries all along I-87.

Of the five towns losing AHL teams, three of them (Adirondack, Norfolk and Manchester) will get ECHL teams to replace them. The DCU Center in Worcester will be left without a hockey tenant. At least Oklahoma City still has the NBA’s Thunder. (WorcesterHerald.com)
Of the five towns losing AHL teams, three of them (Adirondack, Norfolk and Manchester) will get ECHL teams to replace them. The DCU Center in Worcester will be left without a hockey tenant. At least Oklahoma City still has the NBA’s Thunder. (WorcesterHerald.com)

 

NEW ENGLAND DIVISION (new name)

-Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins affiliate)

-Springfield Falcons (Columbus Blue Jackets affiliate)

-Hartford Wolf Pack (New York Rangers affiliate)

-Bridgeport Sound Tigers (New York Islanders affiliate)

-Portland Pirates (Arizona Coyotes affiliate)

 

The name of the division is self-explanatory. Having the teams from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine in the same division almost gives it a Hockey East vibe. This division would have the easiest travel for intradivision games.

 

APPALACHIAN DIVISION (new name)

-Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators affiliate)

-Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers affiliate)

-Hershey Bears (Washington Capitals affiliate)

-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins affiliate)

-Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes affiliate)

 

This is basically the current “East Division” in the AHL, but Charlotte takes the spot of the soon-to-be defunct Norfolk squad. Charlotte is on an island compared to the rest of the AHL, so moving them in to the East will help them out immensely.

The San Jose Sharks and their AHL affiliate will be sharing the SAP Center starting next season. (ArenaNetwork.com)
The San Jose Sharks and their AHL affiliate will be sharing the SAP Center starting next season. (ArenaNetwork.com)

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

PACIFIC DIVISON

-San Diego (Anaheim Ducks affiliate)

-Ontario (Los Angeles Kings affiliate)

-Bakersfield (Edmonton Oilers affiliate)

-Stockton (Calgary Flames affiliate)

-San Jose (San Jose Sharks affiliate)

 

It would be silly to not have all five of these clubs within the same division. All five of their AHL affiliates are also in the same division in the NHL, which is a cool ripple effect of the move. It will make needed same day call-ups to the big club much easier for these teams, rather than having to travel across some of or the entire continent.

 

MIDWEST DIVISON

-Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild affiliate)

-Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators affiliate)

-Chicago Wolves (St. Louis Blues affiliate)

-Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago Blackhawks affiliate)

-Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings affiliate)

 

Milwaukee, Chicago, Rockford, and Grand Rapids are all currently in the same division already. Putting Iowa with them makes geographical sense for the bigger picture than keeping Lake Erie in the division.

 

CONTINENTAL DIVISION (new name)

-Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate)

-Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens affiliate)

-Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche affiliate)

-Texas Stars (Dallas Stars affiliate)

-San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers affiliate)

 

This is the one division that doesn’t make a ton of sense geographically, hence why it’s called the “Continental Division.” But this is for the greater good of the other five divisions. Toronto, Hamilton, and Lake Erie are all close enough to one another, and most of the other AHL franchises remain nearby. Putting Texas and San Antonio in this division is like the NHL’s Atlantic Division, with Tampa Bay & Florida being lumped in with teams in the northern United States and Canada.

 

If the AHL wanted to adopt a two conference/four division format like the NHL currently has, this is how it would look:

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE
ATLANTIC DIVISION

-Lehigh Valley Phantoms

-Hershey Bears
-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

-Binghamton Senators

-Bridgeport Sound Tigers

-Hartford Wolf Pack

-Springfield Falcons

-Providence Bruins

 

NORTHERN DIVISION

-St. John’s IceCaps

-Portland Pirates
-Albany Devils

-Syracuse Crunch

-Rochester Americans

-Utica Comets

-Hamilton Bulldogs

-Toronto Marlies

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE
PACIFIC DIVISION

-San Diego

-Ontario
-Bakersfield

-Stockton

-San Jose

-Texas Stars

-San Antonio Rampage

 

CENTRAL DIVISION

-Iowa Wild

-Chicago Wolves
-Rockford Ice Hogs

-Milwaukee Admirals

-Grand Rapids Griffins

-Lake Erie Monsters

-Charlotte Checkers

 

Following the NHL’s format of having two eight-team divisions in the East and two seven-team divisions in the West, the Atlantic Division in this suggested realignment would have five of the NHL’s Metropolitan affiliates in the same division. The Northern Division would allow Hamilton & Toronto to stay in the East. As for the Western Conference, the current Midwest Division would stay in-tact and adopt Iowa and Charlotte. The Pacific Division goes as planned with adding the two Texas-based squads in to the mix.

Adam Bernard
I'm a seasoned veteran in the sports media field and a lifelong Rangers fan (hoping to relive 1994 at some point - I couldn't fully appreciate a championship at 11 years old). Hockey dominates my life for the most part: I also root for the Blackhawks & Kings, I've been lucky enough to split season tickets for the Blueshirts with a good friend since the lockout, and I'm a defenseman on a local roller hockey team. Away from the rink, I enjoy hiking, hard rock music, and spending time with my dog Astro.
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