AHL vs. NHL - A Primer

 

Imagine opening your copy of Newsday one day this summer and reading an article by Arthur Staple reporting that Charles Wang and Colorado Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke had agreed to a swap. All players and coaches associated with the Isles’ would become Avs’, and the Avs’ would wear the Isles orange and blue on Long Island.

As strange as it sounds these changes happen with some regularity in the AHL. This years’ change was a bit unique in that it involved the AHL’s Calder Cup winning Norfolk Admirals.

The Anaheim Ducks and the Tampa Bay Lightning swapped their AHL affiliations in Norfolk (Admirals) and Syracuse (Crunch) respectively. So while the Calder Cup sits in Norfolk, the names of the Admirals’ players engraved on the championship trophy now play their home games in Syracuse.

While each of the thirty teams in the NHL has an AHL affiliate, only thirteen are owned by their NHL parent club. The remaining seventeen are independently owned and operated resulting in somewhat frequent changes in affiliation.

Another major difference in the AHL vs. the NHL is that there is no salary cap in the AHL. As a result the independently owned teams tend to keep their players under contract longer making the team more competitive while teams with an NHL owner are more developmental, three year entry level deal to see if you can crack the line up and you’re gone.

Scott Reynolds, writing for The Nation Network, provides an excellent breakdown of AHL players’ salaries for opening night of the 2012-13 season here. Listed in last place are the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with a team salary of $1,352,500, which includes the AHL pay of Hamonic, McDonald, Cizikas and Ullstrom. (Hartford’s payout just for forwards - $1,410,000 – eclipses that).

Mr. Reynolds’ wisely points out in his article that Manchester, Milwaukee and Bridgeport at the bottom of last years list, each made the playoffs and lowly Bridgeport won their division. It’s not the money spent but the talent it is spent on.

There are sixty days left in the regular season and twenty-seven games to play. It is not too soon to think about making a playoff run in fact tomorrow might be too late.

The team starts another three-games-in-three nights Friday when they bus to Springfield for the fifth of eight meetings against the division leader. At two games each we are a long way from declaring a season winner, but points are becoming precious.

Saturday the Manchester Monarchs visit the Sound Tigers at the Webster Bank Arena for the fourth of six games they face each other. Bridgeport has won the first three contests but Manchester sits just one point behind the Tigers in the race for a spot in the playoffs.

The weekend finale pits the team against the always difficult Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Pens have the leagues second stingiest goaltender Jeff Zatkoff with a 2.01 goals against average, a solid fan base that often fills section 102 in Bridgeport and a former Islander/Sound Tiger who as a Norfolk Admiral last season has his name etched on the cup we are playing for.

Trevor Smith will return again to the arena where he has enjoyed so much success and to fans who will never forget him. A player a developmental team such as Bridgeport could no longer keep as room had to be made for the entering class of freshman Trevor continues to excel and is deservedly one of the highest paid players in the league.

There is a chance he could hoist a another cup with his name on it as shown in this photo he posted over the summer on facebook, perhaps even a Stanley. He and six-hundred players like him in the AHL all share that same dream.

 

-Mike Flannery

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