The biggest change is that Charlotte has been relocated to the Western Conference. And of course two new divisions were created (Northeast and Midwest). Below are the new divisions.
|EASTERN CONFERENCE||WESTERN CONFERENCE|
|Atlantic Division||North Division|
|Northeast Division||Midwest Division|
|East Division||West Division|
The division winners will get the top 3 seeds and the next 5 best teams will get into the playoffs. Gone are the days of trying to figure out if the 5th team from one division gets in over the 4th of another. That part I like.
The playoffs will be reseeded (just like the NHL) after the first round so that the highest remaining seed plays the lowest remaining seed. Again, I like this.
But overall I am not a fan of the new format. I liked the fact that the division opponents had to play each other in the playoffs every single year. Not playing each other is going to take away from the divisional rivalries that were created and fostered by the divisional playoffs of years past.
Sure the Bears and Penguins will still have a good rivalry but it will be diminished if they do not regularly face off in the playoffs. In years past you knew during the regular season that games against Wilkes-Barre were likely playoff previews...now they are just regular season games within the division.
The real deciding factor though will be in how they create the schedule. In years past the divisional opponents would play each other multiple times a season, sometimes as many as 12. And that worked because the playoffs were done divisionally.
Now that the playoffs are seeded by conference the schedule needs to be more balanced. I honestly don't think Hershey will play Wilkes-Barre 10 times this season. And if they do it is a huge mistake by the AHL.
Divisional opponents should play each other 6 times each. They should play the remaining conference opponents (10 teams) 4 times each. And each division should play each team from 1 division of the opposing Conference 2 times each. That is 74 games...4 more would need to be scheduled...fairly.
The AHL has not announced how the schedule will be created. And we might not know until late August when the schedule is typically announced. But if they don't create a balanced schedule where each team plays similar teams than it can't work.
Either way I am going to miss the divisional playoff format. Sure, rivalries will still be fierce in the East Division and regular season matchups will still be entertaining.
But a second round matchup against the Connecticut Whale just doesn't have the same emotion as an East Division final against the Baby Pens.
Player Movement News:
The Washington Capitals traded Eric Fehr to Winnipeg for a 4th round pick and Dannick Paquette. Paquette will likely start the season in Hershey and he brings a needed element to the team....agitator. Hockeysfuture.com describes him as
a perfect example of a player that teams love to have on their own side, but hate to play against. Perhaps the only thing more agitating than his gritty style of play is the fact he also has the ability to bury the puck and make the opposition pay for their mistakes and indiscretions.
With the loss of Steve Pinizzotto this is exactly what the Bears needed. He likely won't be as offensively productive as Pinner was but apparently he has that ability. Last season in the ECHL he scored 13 goals and added 7 assists to go along with his 179 penalty minutes in 59 games.
Hershey still needs to add an enforcer but generally they can wait to do that until later in the summer as players of that nature don't get signed too early. Paquette is 6'1" 210lbs so he is not going to fill the role that Joel Rechlicz filled last season but he can surely scrap when necessary.
And Dannick is only just turning 21 so he is 6 years younger than Pinner. Which definitely makes him more valuable to the organization. He is signed for 2 more years so expect to see him in Hershey for the foreseeable future.
In other news...Brian Willsie has signed with Montreal/Hamilton for the upcoming season. With all the veteran spots already taken up in Hershey you knew he wasn't going to be back. He had a great season for Hershey last year and it is tough to see him go.