Ah, vacation day #3. I picked a good week to take off…this week the AHL Board of Governors are meeting in South Carolina. Just breaking today is the league’s division realignment plan and playoff rules for next season. So here we go:
Atlantic Division: Manchester, Portland, Providence, St. John’s, Worcester
NEW Northeast Division: Adirondack, Albany, Bridgeport, Connecticut, Springfield
East Division: Binghamton, Hershey, Norfolk, Syracuse, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
North Division: Grand Rapids, Hamilton, Lake Erie, Rochester, Toronto
NEW Midwest Division: Charlotte, Chicago, Milwaukee, Peoria, Rockford
West Division: Abbotsford, Houston, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Texas
As for the new playoff structure, the league is modeling it after the NHL structure: The 3 division winners will make up the top 3 seeds. The remaining 5 teams will be in order by regular season points totals. The first round will be a best of 5 series; after the first round, the teams will be reseeded by record for the second round, which will be a best of 7 along with the conference finals and the Calder Cup finals. Still waiting word on the list of opponents, that should come out shortly. Of course it’s another 4-6 weeks before the actual schedule gets released.
My take? Travelwise, it makes sense. You have the two closest AHL cities in Adirondack and Springfield in the same division, Connecticut is about a 2 hour drive away as well, Bridgeport takes about 2 1/2-3 hours depending on which route you take (and I know 3 of them now). Which could mean a lot of road trips for me, and you know how I love to travel…win-win for my coverage! And you have New Jersey’s rivals’ (Philly, NY Islanders, NY Rangers) affiliates all together in one division…that dynamic will be an interesting one. I wonder how the schedule will break down with the other 2 divisions in the conference, I just hope it’s evenly spaced out (as in, no 12 games against Adirondack. I know it’s close by and you want a rivalry, but we saw them every other week!). And I feel sorry for the Checkers being moved to the West…you think their travel schedule was bad this year? They’re nowhere close to their new divisional rivals. And with the new playoff format, you could see something like a Bears-Penguins or (yes I live in a dream world, but hypothetically speaking) Devils-Phantoms series with a Calder Cup finals berth on the line. That would make for some very good drama.