|American Hockey League - theahl.com|
In the 2014-15 season, the Abbotsford Heat will move east to Glens Falls. The Adirondack Phantoms, who used the Glens Falls Civic Center as their temporary home until the arena in Allentown, Pennsylvania was ready, will become the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
This one year after the Vancouver Canucks moved their farm team from Chicago to Utica, becoming the Utica Comets. The American Hockey League did not alter the Conferences when that move was made, so as a result the Comets played in the Western Conference even though they are east of Syracuse and Binghamton, two Eastern Conference teams.
Next year, the St. John's IceCaps will be pulling out of Newfoundland, and moving west to Thunder Bay, Ontario, where they will be closer to their parent club in Winnipeg.
In a league that has so much weight on the east coast, it's hard to set up a true geographical mark between west and east. And with that pending move of St. John's, the league might not want to pull a realignment immediately.
This is my suggestion for a divisional alignment for the 2015-16 hockey season. Keep in mind this is purely a suggestion and outside factors could weigh in on how these teams get aligned. In addition, note that the divisions are really just for standings purposes, as the schedules do not weigh the divisional opponents evenly.
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Hartford Wolf Pack
Lehigh Valley Phantoms
WESTERN CONFERENCEGreat Lakes Division
Lake Erie Monsters
Thunder Bay ________
Oklahoma City Barons
San Antonio Rampage
Grand Rapids Griffins
The toughest decision is figuring out who moves west. Thunder Bay would be an obvious choice -- they're going to be one of the westernmost teams in the league. But the second team comes down to who could move without affecting local rivalries. Therefore moving one of the New York teams west would be difficult, as you could make a case for either Binghamton or Syracuse to go west and join Rochester in their division.
The same holds true with the Pennsylvania teams.
You have to figure the league is going to try their hardest to keep the Eastern New York teams together.
But remember what I said above. The divisional placement of teams means little in the American Hockey League. The league's going to schedule the games so that while you will play divisional teams, you're going to play your closest rivals more.
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