Item #1 on the Bears offseason to-do list has been crossed off. I think we all expected this to happen, but everyone knows what happens when you assume.
The Capitals and Bears announced today that they have extended their affiliation agreement through the 2013-14 season. This is good news for all parties involved I think. With the teams close together it makes it easier on the players. And there are obviously plenty of Caps fans in Hershey who enjoy seeing the 'future' Caps before they jump to the NHL.
As a fan watching the players move up it is special. Watching Braden Holtby become the star of the playoffs was pretty cool. (I wish he could have been that steady and superb here in Hershey as well...but that's a post for a different time.)
Jay Beagle, Mathieu Perreault, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Jeff Schultz, Brooks Laich, Michael Neuvirth, Cody Eakin, Dmitry Orlov, and (indirectly) Matt Hendricks...they all had playoff success in Hershey before having playoff success in Washington.
And then there was Keith Aucoin. He has spent the past 4 years in Hershey, scoring goals and assisting on tons more. He is arguably one of the best players in the AHL every single year. To see him get a legitimate look in the NHL and actually play meaningful minutes in meaningful playoff games...that was pretty awesome. Everyone Bears fan who has seen him the last 4 years know that he can play and it's great to see him get the chance to prove that he can do it on at the highest level.
As much as I wanted to see Coiner (and the rest of them that were eligible) return to Hershey for the Bears run, I was absolutely fine with seeing it not happen as well. I was really hoping that Keith would have gotten his name on the Stanley Cup after putting in his dues in the AHL for so long. It wasn't meant to be...this year...but I am sure he wouldn't trade it for anything.
Sorry, kind of went off in a different direction there.
The Caps/Bears affiliation has obviously been successful...7 years, 7 playoff appearances, 4 Calder Cup finals appearances, and 3 Calder Cups.
Pretty sure ANY franchise in ANY sport would take that kind of success and run with it.
The past couple of years has seen a lesser influx of talent within the Washington Capitals organization and more in the way of free agent signings. This trend is not likely to end anytime soon. Currently the Capitals organizational ranking when it comes to prospects is in the 25-30 range of the NHL. Meaning they are one of the thinnest franchises in regards to prospect talent.
The nice thing about the affiliation is that the Caps don't look at Hershey and say too bad. They assist in signing players (Kyle Greentree, Alexandre Giroux, Jacob Micflikier, Brian Fahey, Dany Sabourin) that will help the Bears be a winning team.
And it doesn't appear that there is much 'influence' on the Bears on who to dress and who not to dress. If there was then guys like Aucoin and Chris Bourque would see their minutes diminish in favor of players like Eakin or Garrett Mitchell.
Overall it is a good affiliation that will no doubt continue to assist both teams toward their yearly goals of hoisting a championship trophy.