A report recently surfaced that some Western Conference general managers may be pushing for an overhaul of the American Hockey League, and possibly adding a western wing to the top development league of the NHL. The San Jose Sharks are one of those clubs.
According to an article from Darren Dreger of TSN in Canada:
Sources tell TSN several NHL western conference teams are involved in ongoing discussions to improve the geographic challenges some teams face in trying to develop their players from afar.
Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Phoenix, Colorado, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary attended a private meeting with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly earlier this month, where the group conceptually talked about the introduction of a western wing to the American Hockey League to ease the burden of travel on prospect players, as well as provide NHL teams with a more hands on approach in day to day development.
It makes sense. When the Sharks need to recall a player from their AHL affiliate in Worcester, Mass., it typically entails a cross-country flight. The Sharks, in fact, have the distinction of being the furthest NHL team from their top minor league club.
It can be difficult to get a player in on short notice, and if they do, that player may not have the same energy he would have if it were a shorter trip. Just ask Benn Ferreiro, who has flown across the country and had to play that same day.
Yeah, it could be better, he said. It could be a lot easier than having to fly six hours and then play the same day, instead of maybe drive a couple or fly a couple. It might be a little easier on your legs and your mind.
Until you actually do it, I dont think you realize how tough it is.
There are a few reasons some clubs want these changes, not the least of which is it can give their biggest rivals a distinct advantage. The Chicago Blackhawks, for example, have their AHL team in nearby Peoria, Ill.
It would also allow for closer monitoring by key front office personnel of the organizations top prospects.
There are some advantages to playing in Worcester, though, said Justin Braun. The Sharks affiliate is close to many of the teams in its division, which means shorter bus trips.
It makes life easier down there, said Braun. Ive talked to a couple of my other buddies who have to fly to a lot of their AHL games, so there are pros and cons.
And, as far as getting shipped back to the AHL from the NHL?
The flight home is usually a little bit longer, said Braun.