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The AHL: Westward ho!


RowdyFan42
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(Note:  The first few posts originally appeared in the the minor league transactions thread.)

 

 

I know this is a bit old, but I wanted to speak a bit on the AHL relocation rumors and Albany's situation specifically.

 

For those of you who don't know, many of the western NHL teams have been making noise about wanting their AHL affiliates closer to home.  Things have progressed to the point where we know it's going down eventually, we just don't know exactly which cities will become AHL markets or when this will all start.  Obviously nothing's happening this upcoming season, there's simply not enough time to put anything in place.  A lot of people think there will be some shuffling in the 2015 offseason, others say it won't be until 2016 or even later.  There's an idea I've seen floated around the past couple days wherein the westward shift will be put on hold until the next NHL expansion, which is rife with its own rumors about location and timing.

 

The teams that are almost definitely involved and their current AHL farm clubs are:

  • Los Angeles:  Manchester (NH) Monarchs
  • Anaheim:  Norfolk (VA) Admirals
  • Arizona:  Portland (ME) Pirates
  • San Jose:  Worcester (MA) Sharks
  • Vancouver:  Utica (NY) Comets
  • Calgary:  Adirondack Flames (Glens Falls, NY)
  • Edmonton:  Oklahoma City (OK) Barons

(Bold denotes the NHL club owns its AHL affiliate.)

 

Also, it is rumored that Colorado (Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland), Dallas (Texas Stars in Austin), and/or Winnipeg (St. John's [Newfoundland] IceCaps) might get involved.  The Avalanche don't own the Monsters, but the other two pairings are O&O situations.  Before all the west coast talks got heavy, the Jets had announced that they would eventually move the IceCaps to Thunder Bay, Ontario; nobody knows where that's at as there doesn't seem to be any progress on building an AHL-caliber arena in Thunder Bay.

 

I noted above that Anaheim and Arizona do not currently own their AHL affiliates, so they would need to purchase AHL franchises or partner with an independent group that would handle all the dirty work.  This has led to various rumblings about who might be in trouble; however, as far as the league is willing to state publicly, nobody's for sale.

 

 

Now, about Albany:

 

I'm still curious to see what is the reason for the Albany devils attendance issues. Is the local economy tough or the locals apathetic? From what I remember the team on the ice have not been great but they haven't been that bad either.

 

Wellllllll... to put it bluntly, we're a bunch of front-running cheapskates.  The local economy isn't that bad, but the locals chafe at what are, IMO, some pretty reasonable ticket prices.  (Single-game prices this year for adults are $17 on the ends, $20 in the corners, $23 in the center sections, and $27 on the glass everywhere; season tickets range from $540 to $755.)  However, when the team isn't doing all that well, people around here will throw out every excuse in the book not to show up, including whining about the ticket prices.  Occasionally someone will man up and admit that they don't want to go because the team sucks.

 

You're right in that the A-Devs have been fairly meh; however, the River Rats in the last few years as a Devils farm club were TERRIBLE, and the locals were only just starting to get over that when the Rats (who had been mediocre as a Hurricanes affiliate) left for Charlotte four years later.  As Fiesty said, attendance had been near the bottom of the league since the end of the '90s anyway, but a decent number of fans were turned off by the Devils' return.  (It didn't help that there were rumors at the time that the Rangers wanted out of Hartford and that Albany was a likely destination.  Obviously that never happened.)  The two playoff games Albany hosted this past season generated a fair amount of excitement, though; favorable scheduling (a Friday-Saturday duo) and an aggressive ticket discount campaign resulted in crowds of 6500 and 8000.  Hopefully some of that excitement will translate to better crowds this year.

 

And to tie the two topics together, I'm not optimistic about the future of the Devils in Albany.  This has nothing to do with the attendance; clearly the Devils aren't all that concerned with the number of butts in the seats.  And it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that the Devils continue to insist upon playing a few games in Atlantic City.  My thought is that the two AHL franchises Anaheim and Arizona need for the west coast move are going to have to come from somewhere, and I haven't heard anything about how committed the new Devils owners are (or aren't) to continuing to own and operate their own AHL team.  They might prefer to revert to a traditional affiliation agreement and let the locals do all the dirty work (especially after Lou finally retires), and as such they might be more willing to sell than most of the other AHL ownership groups.  I may be completely off-base on this, but that's where my mind is at right now.

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What do you think about the Devils eventually moving the team to Trenton? With that arena having no hockey again this year it seems like something the Devils could do, it makes the team really accessible to keep an eye on players. Calling up players becomes a simple drive up the turnpike.

That arena is definitely an AHL ready arena. the Devils don't care about crowds so it would work perfectly.

Edited by Satans Hockey
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I suppose I should clarify what I meant by "I'm not optimistic about the future of the Devils in Albany", because thinking back on it, it's about as clear as mud.
 
I don't have anything to back this up, just a gut feeling, but I feel like there's a remote possibility that Harris and Blitzer might sell the AHL franchise when AHL West finally comes to fruition.  However, if they do not sell the franchise, I feel like they would stay in Albany for as long as the arena wants them there.  (I phrase it like that because if the TU Center ever gets the opportunity to land the Rangers' farm club, they'll probably jump on it.)

 

So, to answer the question about Trenton, no, I don't think that would happen.  If it did, the Devils would definitely need to do a better job of running things than they did last time.  (For starters, try something more than just sticking "Trenton" above the NJ logo.)  But it kinda seems like that bridge was burned, wasn't it?  I suppose if the Devils find themselves no longer welcome in Albany, Trenton would be near the top of the list of potential locations... but I really can't say how well it would go for them there.

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Wellllllll... to put it bluntly, we're a bunch of front-running cheapskates.  The local economy isn't that bad, but the locals chafe at what are, IMO, some pretty reasonable ticket prices.  (Single-game prices this year for adults are $17 on the ends, $20 in the corners, $23 in the center sections, and $27 on the glass everywhere; season tickets range from $540 to $755.)  However, when the team isn't doing all that well, people around here will throw out every excuse in the book not to show up, including whining about the ticket prices.  Occasionally someone will man up and admit that they don't want to go because the team sucks.

 

New Jersey Devils fans are the same. You see dozens of comments on Facebook/Twitter by Devils fans saying the organization should lower ticket prices. If they only knew we have some of the lowest in the league, and definitely lowest in the East (outside of Florida Panthers).

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New Jersey Devils fans are the same. You see dozens of comments on Facebook/Twitter by Devils fans saying the organization should lower ticket prices. If they only knew we have some of the lowest in the league, and definitely lowest in the East (outside of Florida Panthers).

 

Sadly this is true.  You hit it right on the head that the only team on the East Coast with cheaper ticket prices are the Panthers.

 

The fans that keep whining that the tickets should be cheaper are the ones who would always complain unless the tickets were free.

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New Jersey Devils fans are the same. You see dozens of comments on Facebook/Twitter by Devils fans saying the organization should lower ticket prices. If they only knew we have some of the lowest in the league, and definitely lowest in the East (outside of Florida Panthers).

 

I don't know how our ticket prices stack up against our NHL teams.  However, there is no debating that the decision to lower the price of balcony tickets has filled those sections up nicely from when the arena first opened - however some who sat in the 200 level likely moved down to cheaper and better seats as a result of the price change.

 

I know that I picked up season tickets the year they lowered the balcony prices to $22/game, when I had been going to 10-15 games each season previously as part of a flex plan.  I'm sure there were others like me in that regard.    

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Rowdy:  This is a good series of posts.  I have no idea why you ended up burying them in a thread about minor transactions.

 

Thanks, Tri, I truly appreciate that, especially coming from you.   :cheers:

The topic was brought up in this thread a few posts back, so I decided to respond to it here.  Do you think I should split it off into its own thread?

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Thanks, Tri, I truly appreciate that, especially coming from you.   :cheers:

The topic was brought up in this thread a few posts back, so I decided to respond to it here.  Do you think I should split it off into its own thread?

 

I do, yeah.  I think a lot of fans like the idea of the team in Albany.  

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  • 1 month later...

So I finally took Triumph's advice and split this off from the minor league transactions thread.

 

An article came out a couple days ago from the Virginian-Pilot, the newspaper in Norfolk, that talks about the situation from the Admirals' perspective:

 

http://hamptonroads.com/2014/10/despite-continental-divide-admirals-not-about-move

 

The team's owners (who also own the Norfolk Tides, the Orioles' AAA farm club) aren't interested in selling to Anaheim -- or anyone else -- unless they absolutely have to.  They're confident they can find another parent club should the Admirals get left behind in the AHL's westward shift, should it ever happen.

 

Aside from that, there's not much in the article that we don't already know.  The league is still trying to pour some water on the rumors that got pretty hot and heavy during the offseason, but that's to be expected.

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I can't speak to the Albany situation, but as to Trenton I can tell you I sorely miss our team here. I still feel like the Devils screwed up a good thing and then dumped us. Not a good feeling for this long-time Devs fan. That said, I'd welcome another opportunity, especially given that the Titans don't seem likely to return to biz anytime soon and we'd perhaps move up to the AHL. You could even leave the River Rats name! ;)

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Hey, don't mess with the Texas Stars!

 

Actually, the Texas Stars are still owned by Hicks.  A few months ago Gaglardi (Dallas Stars owner) announced that they would be buying the Texas Stars.  I don't think the transaction has gone through just yet.  It would suck if he bought them only to move them.

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  • 2 months later...

Things are slowly starting to fall into place for AHL West.
 
First up, about three or four weeks ago, the Oklahoma City Barons announced that they will close up shop after this season.  The Barons are owned by their parent Edmonton Oilers and were one of the teams that were expected to move west to form the AHL's Pacific Division.  They had been operated by a group headed by Bob Funk, who had owned the CHL's Blazers, the Barons' predecessor in OKC.  It is rumored that the Oilers will move their farm club to Bakersfield, currently home to the Oilers-owned Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL.
 
Second:  Remember when I said that the owner of the Norfolk Admirals wasn't going to sell unless he had to?  Well, it looks like he thought about it for a while and came to the realization that he pretty much has to.  Nothing has been finalized yet, but news reports out of Norfolk say that the Admirals are close to being sold to the Anaheim Ducks, their current parent club.  The most likely destination for the Ads, according to the rumor mill, is San Diego.  (The rebirth of the San Diego Gulls, anyone?)  All is not lost for Norfolk, however.  There are some rumblings that the aforementioned Bakersfield Condors will wind up in Norfolk where they will likely adopt the Admirals name.  (A little bit of history:  Prior to joining the AHL, Norfolk was home to the ECHL's Hampton Roads Admirals from 1989 to 2000.)

 

Third:  Calgary's AHL team has bounced around a lot since leaving Saint John, New Brunswick, in 2003.  First they were in Omaha, then the Quad Cities, then Abbotsford, BC, and finally this season they moved to Glens Falls, NY, about an hour north of Albany.  Now it looks like they're gearing up to move once again to Stockton, CA, if their impending purchase of the ECHL's Stockton Thunder is any indication.  It's possible that Calgary could be going for a straight switcheroo here, flipping the locations of the Thunder and the Adirondack Flames.

 

It's already widely assumed that the Kings will move the Manchester Monarchs to Ontario, CA, replacing the Kings-owned Ontario Reign of the ECHL, and that the San Jose Sharks will likewise move the Worcester Sharks to California.  Where, however, is less clear.  The Cow Palace in San Francisco is not ideal, and ARCO Arena in Sacramento (or whatever they're calling it these days) doesn't have ice.  There's a possibility that they could share Oracle Arena with the Golden State Warriors, but the latest rumor points to San Jose simply parking their AHL club in the Shark Tank for a year or two until new NBA arenas in Sacramento and San Francisco are ready.

 

To round out the probable suspects:  Vancouver looks to be playing wait-and-see; they're content to cool their heels in Utica for a few years while everyone else does the dirty work of figuring out whether this whole west-coast thing is even viable.  As for Arizona, even if they wanted to have an AHL franchise of their own closer to home, they're probably not in a position to make that happen right now.  The closest they'll be able to get is an affiliation change; they're almost certainly out of Portland after this season, and some people think they'll wind up back in San Antonio, where they had previously affiliated with the Rampage from 2005 to 2011.

 

... And all this assumes that everything's going down this offseason.  Obviously something has to happen with the soon-to-be-ex-Barons, but everything else could conceivably still be held off until 2016.  Not surprisingly, the rumor mill's got itself worked up over the prospect of 2015 being the year that AHL West finally comes to fruition.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The worst-kept secret in the AHL was made official today in a press conference in San Jose featuring AHL president David Andrews, representatives of the 5 NHL teams involved, and, of all people, Bill Daly.  (Don't know WTF he was doing there.)  If you've been following this thread (or the situation in general), you already know what's up, but just to recap:

 

  • The Kings will move their franchise from Manchester (NH) to Ontario (CA), where their ECHL club currently plays.  The AHL team will likely assume the Ontario Reign identity from the ECHL team.
  • The Sharks will move their franchise from Worcester (MA) to San Jose.  They'll play out of the SAP Center initially, with a permanent home to be determined at a later date.  Rumor has it that the Sharks intend to expand their practice facility to fit in a rink with sufficient capacity.
  • The Oilers will move their franchise from Oklahoma City to Bakersfield (CA).  It will likely take on the Condors identity from the incumbent ECHL squad.
  • The Flames will move their franchise from Glens Falls (NY) to Stockton (CA), where they will become the Stockton Grizzlies.  Continuing a theme, they will be displacing the ECHL's Stockton Thunder.
  • The Ducks will purchase the team they had been affiliated with, the Norfolk (VA) Admirals, from their current owners and move them to San Diego.  No word yet on their new name.

 

In return, it is expected that the Kings and Flames will move their respective ECHL teams (Ontario and Stockton) into the AHL cities they are vacating.  Also, as I previously mentioned, it is expected that the Oilers will do the Ducks a solid and move ECHL Bakersfield to Norfolk.  I don't know if any of these are official yet or if they're even true; at any rate, the ECHL is supposedly holding a press conference tomorrow to discuss how the AHL's moves will affect them.

 

So far, none of this has any effect on the Devils' relationship with Albany.  Their lease is up at the end of this season, and it's possible another city will try to convince the Devils to move, but at present, I see no reason why the Devils would leave Albany.

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Good updates on what's going on with these teams.

 

Also isn't the other part of the end-game to this where they re-organize the AHL and ECHL into a more direct farm system like baseball where every team has a A, AA and AAA affiliate?  Right now the Devils have a AAA affiliate in Albany but no clear AA affiliate as they are not connected to a single ECHL (or similar level team).  Instead from what I understand the Devils have players in a few ECHL team and I believe they are right now the only team in the NHL without a single, established ECHL team affiliate.

 

If what I said is true, could this be the re-birth of Trenton perhaps or would they just have a formal affiliation with a single, established team whether they share with another NHL team or not?

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Now that I spend so much time around there, I'd kill for Trenton to return, but I wouldn't bank on it.

 

I don't think the Devils are the only team without single ECHL affiliation, though. There's a graphic going around that connects all of the NHL/AHL/ECHL teams and I'm reasonably certain there are a few others like the Devils that stop at the AHL level.

 

Edit: Found the graphic: http://www.icethetics.co/blog/2014/8/16/infographic-2014-15-nhl-affiliations - Devils are the only team without ECHL affiliation, though some teams share ECHL affiliations, and there's a small handful of ECHL teams that are unaffiliated. Sorry for the confusion.

Edited by thelastonealive
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There's really no need to connect a team below the AHL because a team should really only have a few players in the ECHL and these are your least valuable prospects who have very little chance at becoming NHLers.  In baseball skipping a level is not common even by the best players.  It's convenient to have your guys in one place but I don't think the Devils got anything out of having Trenton affiliated with NJ.

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Also isn't the other part of the end-game to this where they re-organize the AHL and ECHL into a more direct farm system like baseball where every team has a A, AA and AAA affiliate?  Right now the Devils have a AAA affiliate in Albany but no clear AA affiliate as they are not connected to a single ECHL (or similar level team).  Instead from what I understand the Devils have players in a few ECHL team and I believe they are right now the only team in the NHL without a single, established ECHL team affiliate.

 

Some people think that's where we're eventually headed.  I have no idea if there are any official (or even unofficial) plans to that end, though.  The AHL was pretty clear that their goal was a full 30-team complement with each franchise paired up with a NHL partner, and they finally achieved that a few years ago.  AFAIK, the ECHL does not have a similar manifest destiny mindset.  I suppose it's possible that the NHL will push the ECHL toward a tighter relationship as more ECHL teams fall under NHL ownership, but I don't think there's any sort of timeline on that.

 

 

If what I said is true, could this be the re-birth of Trenton perhaps or would they just have a formal affiliation with a single, established team whether they share with another NHL team or not?

 

Not a flippin' clue. Sorry. :noclue:

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There's really no need to connect a team below the AHL because a team should really only have a few players in the ECHL and these are your least valuable prospects who have very little chance at becoming NHLers.  In baseball skipping a level is not common even by the best players.  It's convenient to have your guys in one place but I don't think the Devils got anything out of having Trenton affiliated with NJ.

 

That's true for the most part, but sometimes good prospects get put into the ECHL.  An example would be Wedgewood.  I admit these examples are pretty rare but it does happen.

 

I mean how often do AA players make it the MLB?  Is it more common for that to happen than a hockey player going from the ECHL and eventually making it to the NHL?

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That's true for the most part, but sometimes good prospects get put into the ECHL.  An example would be Wedgewood.  I admit these examples are pretty rare but it does happen.

 

I mean how often do AA players make it the MLB?  Is it more common for that to happen than a hockey player going from the ECHL and eventually making it to the NHL?

 

I mean, in terms of sheer numbers, it's probably comparable - take an AA player, his odds of making MLB eventually are X, take an ECHL player, his odds are Y, those numbers probably aren't that far away, but there are so many baseball players in the minor leagues - the MLB draft is 50+ rounds long. But, just about every great major leaguer spent some time in double A, even if it was just a month.  And non-great players definitely spend time there.  So basically the entire league has played in AA.  Whereas the vast majority of NHL players never played in the ECHL.

 

I'd dispute the idea of Wedgewood being a good prospect.  It's rare, and it happens most often with goalies, but it shouldn't happen for very long even when it does happen.

Edited by Triumph
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