Incredible as it may seem, most American Hockey League clubs are now less than 100 days away from dropping the puck on the 2016-17 campaign. If you’re asking, no I don’t have the full schedule of your favorite team, you’ll have to wait until August. What I can tell you is that there will be some changes around the “A.”
At the conclusion of their annual meeting, the AHL Board of Governors implemented the following changes.
Although this summer isn’t as chaotic as the one prior, the league was not without movement. The Arizona Coyotes moved their affiliate, the Springfield Falcons and they move from the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference and will play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference, as the Tucson Roadrunners. Springfield will retain a team in the Atlantic, as the Florida Panthers affiliated Portland Pirates pulled up roots after 23 seasons in Maine. The new team will be known as the Springfield Thunderbirds. This gives the Western Conference 16 clubs and the Eastern Conference 14.
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) July 7, 2016
Somewhat surprising is the fact the Charlotte Checkers or the aforementioned Monsters are staying in the West, rather than shifting to the East and evening out the respective conferences.
Standings and Schedule:
Once again the league is going by a points percentage system, thus complicating things more than necessary for the casual fan. This is being done because once again the California teams (Stockton, San Jose, Ontario, Bakersfield) and Tuscon will play a 68-game slate, while the rest of the league will skate in 76. One would think that given the increased number of teams in the West, they’d play a full schedule but I digress.
Unlike last season, the top four point percentage squads in each division will qualify for the postseason. Hence, no crossover teams. The divisional playoff format remains intact, which means unfortunately no re-seeding as teams advance. Like last season, the opening round of the playoffs consist of a best-of-five series, with all following rounds being best-of-seven.
So, to sum up, still an uneven playing schedule and no changes in divisions. Same playoff system. #AHL
— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) July 7, 2016
On a minor note, home teams will wear white sweaters until the Christmas break and dark sweaters after.
Fighting and Game Misconducts:
Here’s the beginning of the end of fighting in hockey.
Players who engage in a fight before, at or immediately after the puck drop faceoff, receive an automatic game misconduct. Don’t ask me what constitutes “immediately.” Is it three seconds, five, ten?
Additionally, players who total ten fighting majors are automatically suspended one game, up to 13. When a player accrues 14 fighting majors, he is automatically suspended two games for each subsequent infraction. However, any time an opposing player is assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major doesn’t count against his total.
The AHL's new suspensions for accumulation of fighting majors would have impacted 22 players last season, per hockeyfights dot com.
— Kevin Oklobzija (@kevinoROC1) July 8, 2016
In my opinion, where the league fails in terms of player safety is the lack of a crackdown on head shots and cheap shots. If a defenseless player gets drilled and misses three weeks or three months, why does the offending player only get three games? At least with fighting, both parties are willing participants.
Upon icing the puck, the offending team may no longer call time-out.
Not a bad rule in terms of speeding up the game. If it were up to me, I’d also start calling more delay of game penalties on goalies covering the puck outside the crease.
No more dry scrape prior to overtime. Instead, those interns with steel shovels you see skating around during promotional stoppages, will save gas on the Zamboni.
The AHL regular season will begin on October 12 and conclude on April 16.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.