Tuesday, 5 July 2011

AHL Format Changes

The AHL has recently done some things that are the opposite of trends seen in professional sports. They reduced the number of games that the teams play in the regular season, they are still leaders in having its players wear visors, and they are reducing the number of opening-round playoff games from seven to five. Today, though, the AHL has decided to make an executive decision and spread its team over more divisions for better travel and play. I get this idea in its theory, but I really liked the old divisions and rivalries formed because of them in the AHL.

Needless to say, there will be some new rivalries formed as we look at these new divisional alignments. Here is how the 2011-12 AHL Divisions will look.


Atlantic Division

Manchester Monarchs (LA)
Portland Pirates (PHX)
Providence Bruins (BOS)
St. John's (WPG)
Worcester Sharks (SJ)

Northeast Division

Adirondack Phantoms (PHI)
Albany Devils (NJ)
Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NYI)
Connecticut Whale (NYR)
Springfield Falcons (CBJ)

East Division

Binghamton Senators (OTT)
Hershey Bears (WSH)
Norfolk Admirals (TB)
Syracuse Crunch (ANA)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (PIT)


North Division

Grand Rapids Griffins (DET)
Hamilton Bulldogs (MTL)
Lake Erie Monsters (COL)
Rochester Americans (BUF)
Toronto Marlies (TOR)

Midwest Division

Charlotte Checkers (CAR)
Chicago Wolves (VAN)
Milwaukee Admirals (NSH)
Peoria Rivermen (STL)
Rockford IceHogs (CHI)

West Division

Abbotsford Heat (CGY)
Houston Aeros (MIN)
Oklahoma City Barons (EDM)
San Antonio Rampage (FLA)
Texas Stars (DAL)

In looking at the divisions, I don't follow some of the logic. For example, the West Division is composed of southern US teams and Abbotsford. Why not move Abbotsford to the North Division, move the Lake Erie Monsters to the Midwest Division, and the Charlotte Checkers to the "West Division" and just call it the "South Division"?

Personally, the new St. John's squad - formerly the Manitoba Moose - moved into a division where winning will be everything. Providence, Manchester, and Worcester are solid teams, and Portland should provide some additional competition as the team that played in San Antonio, Phoenix's former affiliation, was decent last season.

With the Checkers moving to the Western Conference, all of the battles and rivalries they developed last season are gone as well. Worse yet, the Checkers, like Abbotsford, are playing in a division where travel will take its toll on the team. Charlotte had a great run in the playoffs last year in the Eastern Conference, but it appears that trading St. John's (Manitoba) and Charlotte was something that had to done. Why? I simply can't answer that.

In any case, there are your new division alignments for the upcoming season. Those weren't the only changes, though, as the AHL adopted the same playoff seeding format as the NHL. Eight teams in each conference will qualify for the postseason, with the three division winners earning the top three seeds and the next five best teams in order of regular-season points seeded fourth through eighth. Teams will be re-ordered after the first round so that the highest-remaining seed plays the lowest-remaining seed.

The AHL will look very different next season, but there still should be some excellent competition in the two newly-aligned conferences. Again, I'm not a fan of these changes on paper, but perhaps they will turn out much better once they are put into production.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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