Tuesday, February 9, 2016

American Hockey League announces re-alignment plan

The AHL announced a new re-alignment plan for the 2013-14 season on Friday. The Adirondack Phantoms, the Flyers minor league affiliate, won't be moving, however. They will stay in the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference.

American Hockey League announces re-alignment plan

Adirondack Phantoms head coach Terry Murray.(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Adirondack Phantoms head coach Terry Murray.(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The AHL announced a new re-alignment plan for the 2013-14 season on Friday. The Adirondack Phantoms, the Flyers minor league affiliate, won't be moving, however. They will stay in the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference. 

The Phantoms, who currently play in Glen Falls, N.Y., stay grouped with the Albany Devils, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Hartford Wolf Pack (formerly the Connecticut Whale), and the Springfield Falcons.

Putting the Phantoms into this division makes sense for next season, but where does it leave them when the team moves to Allentown, Pa. and changes their name to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms?

Right now the Phantoms are expected to finish out this season in Glen Falls while their new arena is being built in Allentown. The team is expected to move back to Pennsylvania at the start of the following season.

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Due to the move, traveling to play teams in upstate New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut could be too much of a travel burden for the organization, especially considering minor league teams don't have the luxury of flying to away games.

An option to alleviate this problem would be to move the Phantoms into the East Division. The East Division currently consists of the Binghamton Senators, the Syracuse Crunch, the Norfolk Admirals, the Hershey Bears, and the Wikes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Here's a look at how the average travel times the Phantoms would deal with stack up:

Northeast Division Estimated Travel Time East Division
Phantoms N/A 2:24 Binghamton Senators
Albany Devils 3:42 3:32 Syracuse Crunch
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3:01 6:20 Norfolk Admirals
Hartford Wolf Pack 4:01 1:26  Hershey Bears
Springfield Falcons 4:29 1:19  W-B/Scranton Penguins
Average  3:48 3:00
If Phantoms replace Norfolk, however, average travel time drops to 2 hrs 10 mins.

As hockey fans have learned with the NHL’s recent re-alignment plans, moving a team to another division is not as simple as it sounds. Glen Falls is looking to keep an AHL team, but the Phantoms don’t want to stay there, so it is possible that another team could be added to the league. 

It might make more sense, however, to move the Phantoms with the other two Pennsylvania based teams, but that means that the AHL would have to re-align the league again after the 2013-14 season. If they add another team and try to move the Phantoms into the East Division, it would make the divisions unequal.

Right now the AHL has an equal five teams in each of their divisions so it's likely they will want to keep it that way. Similarly to the Winnipeg Jets who played in the Southeast division in the NHL for the past two seasons, the Phantoms may be stuck in the Northeast division with longer travel times for a few seasons.

Here's a look at the full breakdown of the new AHL divisions:

Atlantic Division
Providence Bruins
Manchester Monarchs
St. John's IceCaps
Worcester Sharks
Portland Pirates
Northeast Division
Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Springfield Falcons
Hartford Wolf Pack
Albany Devils

East Division
Binghamton Senators
W-B/Scranton Penguins
Syracuse Crunch
Norfolk Admirals
Hershey Bears



North Division
Toronto Marlies
Lake Erie Monsters
Hamilton Bulldogs
Utica Comets
Rochester Americans
Midwest Division
Chicago Wolves
Milwaukee Admirals
Iowa Wild
Grand Rapids Griffins
Rockford IceHogs

West Division
Abbotsford Heat
Charlotte Checkers
Texas Stars
Oklahoma City Barons
San Antonio Rampage

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