While sixteen teams were up for affiliation changes in the ECHL this summer, I only offered 14 because two had already jumped the gun in announcing partnerships. In May, I offered predictions on how the ECHL affiliation dance card would play out, which didn’t go so hot.
I said I only needed to get three right to own up to the meteorologist adage that “you can be wrong 80 percent of the time and still keep your job.” Luckily for me, I got five right and will still be pumping content out this season.
A successful venture, right?
Here is a complete rundown of how I did, a look at the new player development partnerships in the ECHL, and why they make sense:
Prediction: Buffalo Sabres ACTUAL: New Jersey Devils
Reason: The Calgary Flames no longer own the Adirondack Thunder, and it makes sense that with the Flames’ AHL affiliate being in Stockton, CA, the Flames wanted their ECHL affiliate to be closer to Stockton.
In the face of not having an NHL affiliation, insert the New Jersey Devils, who have been silent player development partners with the Thunder for the last couple seasons. With Ray Shero at the helm in New Jersey, expect for them to put a higher onus on player development in the ECHL & AHL.
Also, the Thunder will be getting help in an unofficial capacity, from the Tampa Bay Lightning. This move makes sense since the Lightning’s AHL affiliate is in Syracuse, just a cozy two-and-a-half hour drive away.
PREDICTION: Stay with San Jose Sharks ACTUAL: Stay with San Jose Sharks
Reason: Everything is working in harmony for everyone in the San Jose affiliation tree. With new owner Jack Gulati in the fold in Allen and Steve Martinson remaining in Allen for another four years. It looks that potentially five or six players could be traveling to North Texas for the start of the ECHL season.
PREDICTION: Stay with Montreal Canadiens ACTUAL: Stay with Montreal Canadiens
Reason: Colin Chaulk is building something special in Brampton, as evidenced by their run to the second round of the playoffs. The main reason for their success last season and in the playoffs, goaltender Zach Fucale. It is entirely possible Fucale will split time between Brampton & Laval this season, With Laval and Brampton separated by five-and-a-half hours; I would expect to see quite a bit of interaction with them this season.
PREDICTION: Columbus Blue Jackets ACTUAL: Buffalo Sabres
Reason: Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of all the affiliation announcements came when Cincinnati announced a partnership with Buffalo. While it would have been convenient having an all-Ohio affiliation, Dakota Johnson says there will be plenty of new blood coming from the Sabres organization.
Prediction: Remain unaffiliated ACTUAL: Arizona Coyotes
Reason: The Komets/Coyotes affiliation is also a head-scratcher, but at the same time, intriguing. The only player who spent any length of time with AHL Tucson last season is Trevor Cheek. The Roadrunners went through a head coaching change during the offseason, so it is somewhat unclear what the Komets might be getting from southern Arizona as the season progresses.
Prediction: Ottawa Senators ACTUAL: Winnipeg Jets
Reason: I have to admit, I wish I would have changed my forecast right after the article came out. It has seemed that since the Ontario Reign days, wherever Jason Christie goes, the Winnipeg Jets are not far behind. This is another case-in-point.
Prediction: Remain with Tampa Bay Lightning ACTUAL: Vancouver Canucks
Reason: The more I thought about this over the summer, Vancouver had some of their guys in Kalamazoo during the 2016-17 season, Nick Bootland and Cory Conacher are good friends…this seems like a fit that needed to be together again. Seeing Kalamazoo with anyone but Vancouver, at least in the Bootland era, felt weird.
Prediction: Florida Panthers ACTUAL: Stays with Los Angeles Kings
Reason: The Monarchs’ relationship continues with the Kings, and there will likely be several Florida Panthers players shuttled between southern New Hampshire and Western Massachusetts…head coach Richard Seeley continues to have the best of both worlds up there.
Prediction: Calgary Flames ACTUAL: Calgary Flames
Reason: The Flames organization is pretty deep with talent, much like the New York Islanders organization. Players like Mike McMurtry and Mason MacDonald have been nice depth pieces for the Heat and will be looked upon to be difference makers for the Mavericks this season. With the ECHL having a dearth of teams west of the Rockies, this is a move that makes sense for the Flames, since it puts everyone at a five-hour flight from each other.
ACTUAL: Nashville Predators
After a ten-year relationship with the Cincinnati Cyclones, the Nashville Predators hit the reset button and chose Norfolk as their ECHL affiliate in May. Since then, the Predators and Milwaukee Admirals have done a great job of signing AHL-ECHL caliber talent to make Norfolk one of the teams to watch right out of the gate. It should be a fun season in Virginia’s Tidewater.
Prediction: Remain with Toronto Maple Leafs ACTUAL: Stay with Toronto Maple Leafs
Reason: The Solar Bears and Maple Leafs have had a good working relationship the last several years, and that will continue and improve even more next season with Drake Berehowsky behind the bench. The Solar Bears now have a “call-up preventable” veteran core, which should help them weather the call-up storm that is sure to come as the season starts.
Prediction: Stay with Minnesota Wild ACTUAL: Las Vegas Golden Knights
Reason: Kudos to our Anna Headley for going “all-in” on the Golden Knights/Mallards partnership this season. I was one of those people who thought the Golden Knights would wait to see what transpires in Reno, NV (nothing at the moment) with regards to a possible ECHL franchise, before jumping in. Like Anna, I think there will be a few players sent down from Chicago to Moline, but not many, at least for this season. This is a partnership that will take years to form, so patience, Mallards fans.
Prediction: Winnipeg Jets ACTUAL: Minnesota Wild
Reason: I wrote in May this is one team whose prediction I was not sure about, and I was correct. One of the final things Joe Ferras did in his time in the Black Hills was to help set up a solid affiliation for first-year coaches Daniel Tetrault and Nello Ferrara. In talking with Tetrault over the summer, he is excited about the prospects he will be getting from Minnesota and the relationship that has already been forged between the two organizations. Rush fans will see some familiar names that have stymied them over the last several seasons in Mallards’ gear; Adam Vay, Pavel Jenys, Dylan Labbe and more.
Prediction: Los Angeles Kings ACTUAL: St. Louis Blues
Reason: Complete swing and a miss on this one. By all indications, the Blues-Mavericks alignment last season was nothing more than a complete headache, leaving everyone to wonder if this season will be a carbon copy of last? This year, the Blues will have to share an AHL affiliate (Chicago Wolves) with the Las Vegas Golden Knights. I suppose it is possible head coach Rob Murray could get a glut of players from the Blues, as a way of limiting the number of players in AHL Chicago.
Prediction: Edmonton Oilers ACTUAL: Edmonton Oilers
Reason: The Oilers have more organizational depth than the Ottawa Senators did, which was a huge reason why the team decided to work with Edmonton this season. Those within the Thunder organization believe that five Oilers prospects will join the team for the start of the season.
ACTUAL: New York Islanders
This move could be seen from a mile away when the Missouri — err…Kansas City — Mavericks announced that they would be working with the St. Louis Blues before the start of the 2016-17 season. The Islanders had wanted to move their ECHL affiliate back to the east coast, and this was the perfect opportunity. Expect for the Railers to get a lot of young talent from Bridgeport this season. Combined with the talent Jamie Russell has already put in place, Worcester could turn some heads.
There was one significant surprise to this offseason’s affiliation shakeups; namely, the Ottawa Senators (who had previously worked with Wichita,) going without a formal ECHL partner in 2017-18. The Senators will be sending players to nearby Brampton.
So there you have it. Recapping all sixteen affiliation moves from this offseason. There will be at least eight more alliances coming open after the end of the 2017-18 season.
If you’re keeping score at home, that is five correct guesses in 14 total predictions, which means I got roughly 35.7 percent of the guesses correct. In baseball terms, a .357 percentage is a helluva batting average, so I’ll take it.
I’ll try and do better the next time.