CINCINNATI, OH – Just a couple short weeks ago, on May 4th, Cyclones fans were hit with a bombshell that the Nashville Predators, Cincinnati’s NHL affiliate of ten years, had moved on and signed an affiliation agreement with the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals. Although many, and I mean many fans expected the Columbus Blue Jackets to fill the void left behind by Nashville, they couldn’t be more wrong.
On Thursday afternoon, it was announced the Cincinnati Cyclones would serve as the ECHL affiliate for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and AHL’s Rochester Americans for the 2017-2018 season. This isn’t the first time the Cyclones have partnered with the second oldest franchise in the American Hockey League as Cincinnati and Rochester were affiliates during the 2010-2011 campaign, when Rochester was the AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers. It will be a reunion of the cities for those that can remember from way back when, the Sabres AHL affiliate from 1971-1974 was the Cincinnati Swords.
From the Cyclones official release: “We are very happy to be working with the Cyclones for the upcoming season,” said Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill. “Part of building a championship-caliber team is having effective and cohesive player development across all levels of the organization. That is especially true at the minor-league level and I think that we have found a strong development partner in Cincinnati. The Cyclones have built a reputation for being a competitive ECHL club, while helping players refine their games and progress to the next levels of professional hockey.”
Affiliation agreements are more of a “who you know” type of deal. Rochester’s assistant coach just happens to be none other than Chuck Weber, who led the Cyclones to two Kelly Cup Championships in 2008 and 2010. Current Cincinnati bench boss Matt Macdonald played for Weber on the 2008 team as well, so the connection with Rochester is pretty strong.
Considering Buffalo’s past few seasons working with the now-defunct Elmira Jackals, this doesn’t look good on paper as the Jackals missed the playoffs each season. However, this can have a happy ending with the front office shake-ups currently going on in Buffalo. Botterill played a big role in turning around the Pittsburgh and Wilkes Barre/Scranton organizations into the cup contenders they are now. While Botterill was there, the Penguins had arguably the best minor league system there is, as much as I hate to admit it. It may not seem like this can end well, but let this play out, we could all be surprised at where this takes us. I would expect him to completely restock Buffalo’s farm system over the summer to better both Cincinnati and Rochester.
During his time with the Penguins organization, Botterill was also frequently in Wheeling and had a very active voice in the direction of their prospects. This guy knows what it takes to rebuild farm systems, especially at the ECHL level, and that was something Nashville lacked in as only three players total got sent to Cincinnati last year.
As far as prospects go and which Buffalo/Rochester contracted players you could see in Cincinnati, here’s a list of those in Buffalo’s system: http://sabres.ice.nhl.com/club/roster.htm?type=prospect