AHL Board of Governors approves realignment, new Pacific Division


The American Hockey League announced that its Board of Governors has approved the new division alignment for the 2015-16 campaign. Like the NHL did with the start of the 2013-14 campaign, the AHL is switching from a six division to four division format. In the AHL’s case, it’s also introducing a Pacific Division to reflect the number of teams that are moving west.

Here is what the divisions will look like next season, per the league’s release:

Atlantic Division
Bridgeport Sound Tigers (NYI)
Hartford Wolf Pack (NYR)
Hershey Bears (WSH)
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (PHI)
Portland Pirates (FLA)
Providence Bruins (BOS)
Springfield Falcons (ARI)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (PIT)

North Division
Albany Devils (NJ)
Binghamton Senators (OTT)
Rochester Americans (BUF)
St. John’s IceCaps (MTL)
Syracuse Crunch (TB)
Toronto Marlies (TOR)
Utica Comets (VAN)

Central Division
Charlotte Checkers (CAR)
Chicago Wolves (STL)
Grand Rapids Griffins (DET)
Iowa Wild (MIN)
Lake Erie Monsters (CBJ)
Manitoba Moose (WPG)
Milwaukee Admirals (NSH)
Rockford IceHogs (CHI)

Pacific Division
Bakersfield Condors (EDM)
Ontario Reign (LA)
San Antonio Rampage (COL)
San Diego Gulls (ANA)
San Jose Barracuda (SJ)
Stockton Heat (CGY)
Texas Stars (DAL)

Several teams have changed their affiliation andor will move over the summer, which you can read about via the links below:

Jackets, Coyotes, and Avs announce new AHL affiliate agreements

Busy day for deals as AHL, OHL clubs change locations

Fear the Gulls: Ducks unveil AHL team in San Diego

Report: Sharks to move AHL affiliate from Worcester to San Jose, will play at SAP Center

Welcome back, Manitoba Moose

Realignment leaves Leafs coach Carlyle scratching his head

Randy Carlyle

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle is no big fan of realignment.

Or, at the very least, he’s confused by it.

“It makes it more difficult for us to qualify for the playoffs,” Carlyle said today, per the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle. “It makes you scratch your head – why is that?”

Starting this season, the Leafs will be in the Atlantic Division with seven other teams — the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Tampa Bay Lightning.

There will be one other eight-team division (the Metropolitan Division) in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Western Conference will be comprised of two seven-team divisions, the Central and the Pacific.

Eight teams from each conference will make the playoffs.

So Carlyle does have a point — if the Leafs are to qualify for the postseason, they’ll have to beat out more teams than their Western Conference counterparts.

If it were up to Carlyle, he’d probably have kept Detroit in the West; however, Wings ownership had for years been pushing the league for a move to the East (for good reason).

Columbus is the other team that moved from the West to the East as part of realignment, with Winnipeg going the opposite way.

If it makes Carlyle feel any better, we hear the Pacific Division might have a new team soon.


Jackets have plenty to be happy about after realignment

Blue Jackets logo

The Columbus Blue Jackets are upbeat going into the 2013-14 campaign and not all of that is due to their late surge last season or even any of the roster moves they’ve made.

When the Blue Jackets joined the NHL in 2000-01, they were stuck in the Western Conference. Thanks to the NHL’s realignment, the Blue Jackets are going to spend far more time playing opponents closer to home as a member of the newly formed Metropolitan Division.

Having less travel time should be a big plus for the team, but it will also be beneficial to their fanbase and in turn, their bottom line.

“The big plus is just more accessibility for the fans, watching us play,” Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards told The Dispatch in March. “It’s difficult when you go out West so often and we’re on Pacific time and they’re here on Eastern time and the game comes on at either 10 or 10:30.”

Beyond the more convenient start times for road games, Blue Jackets fans will also have plenty of reasons to show up for the contests at Nationwide Arena. Rick Nash will frequently come back to town with the New York Rangers and their other division rivals include Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers, as well as John Tavares and the New York Islanders.

Of course, with that level of competition, making the playoffs will be a sizable task, but then again, their old Central Division wasn’t exactly easy. In fact, the Blue Jackets have losing franchise records against all their former division rivals and a combined 100-148-7-39 record against them. By comparison they are 36-36-7-11 historically against the Metropolitan members, which isn’t exactly breathtaking, but does help highlight that they aren’t going from an easy situation into a brutal one.

It’s hard not to see realignment as a big win for the Blue Jackets as a franchise or, as Blue Jackets president Mike Priest put it, “it’s really hard to exaggerate how much it means to us.”


Wings GM Holland doesn’t buy being big wins in the East

Blue Jackets season ticket sales are up after strong season

Wings figure to benefit from Eastern Conference move

Caps GM downplays additional challenges from realignment

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 19: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals battles for the puck against Brooks Orpik #44 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 19, 2013 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

For years the Washington Capitals have played in the often poorly regarded Southeast Division. That’s about to change and there will be little debate about the quality of their competition going into the 2013-14 campaign.

They are entering a division with the rising New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes on top of the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and New Jersey Devils.

Still, Capitals GM George McPhee argued that it won’t be any harder to make the playoffs.

“It’s always difficult,” McPhee told CSN Washington. “It’s as difficult as it can be to make the playoffs. As I said before it’s no small feat to make the playoffs in this league anymore.

“It’s a real good league and the [salary] cap levels the playing field. The real difference now in making the playoffs is managing your coaching and getting the right players. You could this year, but this is the last year you can outspend teams. Some teams were at $70 to $75 million this year. We were $60 million. Going forward it’s level.”

McPhee doesn’t see his team making any roster changes specifically designed to accommodate the change in competition.

“I remember when I first came here [in 1997] we talked about [Eric] Lindros in Philadelphia and how we’d have to get someone to match up with him because if we’d meet in the playoffs it would be an advantage for them if we didn’t have someone. Well, we never met in the playoffs for 10 years,” McPhee said. “So why bother?

“I just try to focus on our club and what we need to really be a complete team and a good team.”

The Capitals certainly looked impressive down the stretch this year and they gave the Rangers a run for their money in the first round. At the same time, they were 15-3-0 against the Southeast Division in 2013 and 12-15-3 outside of it. It’s doubtful that they will have that kind of winning percentage against their new rivals.

Will realignment end Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry?

Chicago Blackhawks v Detroit Red Wings

Tonight’s game between Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings is well underway, but it could very well be the end to what has been a fierce rivalry between the two Central Division teams.

The NHL’s new alignment, which will be implemented for the beginning of next season, will move the Detroit Red Wings to the new-look Eastern Conference. The Blackhawks will remain in the West.

Under a breakdown of the new alignment, the Blackhawks and Red Wings will play each other twice next season – once at home, once on the road. But will it ever be the same?

“I don’t mind the new realignment that the league decided to go with,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp told MLive.com. “But the one thing that does suck is not playing the Red Wings a number of times. I think the fans will always appreciate the rivalry and when we do see them it will be a special time.

“I like going to Detroit and playing in their building and I like it when they come here. They’re fun games to play in. Sometimes, when you play a team six or eight times, that builds rivalries. Sometimes, it kills them. You see the same faces over and over.

“Seeing those guys once or twice a year, the fans will be fired up for that game.”