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Affiliation shuffle

Columbus Blue Jackets prospects will be filling the Springfield jerseys left behind by Defenseman Dean Arsene and other Oilers-affiliated players next season. (Photo by Jim Syner)

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Columbus Blue Jackets prospects will be filling the Springfield jerseys left behind by Defenseman Dean Arsene and other Oilers-affiliated players next season. (Photo by Jim Syner)

The makeover of the American League continues.

The Springfield Falcons and Syracuse Crunch both found new NHL partners, answering at least two more questions as to how the AHL will look for the 2010-11 season and beyond.

The Edmonton Oilers abandoned the Falcons last month to sign a new affiliation deal that will see the Oilers’ farmhands become part of the AHL's first foray into the state of Oklahoma. Oklahoma City, a market that had success at minor pro with the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central League, will slot into the AHL's still-evolving Western Conference.

Left without an affiliation, the Falcons cut a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who needed an AHL affiliate after the Syracuse Crunch inked a multi-year agreement with the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim's previous affiliation with the Iowa Chops ended after last season and the Ducks were left scrambling to disperse their prospects across various AHL ports of call.

The Columbus-Springfield union potentially could be brief, however, as it is only a one-year agreement with a one-year option. Both the Blue Jackets and Falcons bring some baggage to the relationship.
Since Columbus entered the NHL in 2000, it has only had the Syracuse AHL affiliation. The Crunch is in last place in its division, well out of the playoff race, and will miss the post-season for the second consecutive season and fifth in the past 10, with only two playoff series wins in that span.

For Springfield, the past decade-plus has been a torturous ordeal in an AHL market that dates back to the 1930s. The Falcons have fought off a string of bad affiliations and attendance woes in recent years. Springfield has not won a playoff round since 1997, despite having sampled single affiliations with Phoenix, Tampa Bay and Edmonton after the final days of a Hartford-Phoenix dual affiliation produced the Falcons' last playoff run.

With the impending split from Columbus, the Crunch will be entering into their first new partnership since the 2000-01 season and Anaheim will be on its third affiliation since a 2004 departure from Cincinnati. While the Ducks had a good run with the Portland Pirates, their 2008-09 affiliate in Iowa went just 33-33-4-10. In all, though, Ducks-affiliated AHL teams since 2005-06 have notched a 168-109-17-26 mark.

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Certainly the Anaheim-Syracuse multi-year deal does not provide any geographical convenience for the Ducks. Still, Anaheim will once again have its own affiliation and the Crunch will gain a parent club with a history of icing relatively respectable affiliates in recent seasons.

Lowell center Michael Swift had five goals and seven points in four games to win AHL player of the week honors...

Chris Taylor of Rochester joined the AHL's 500-point club with a goal and an assist March 20 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton...

Edmonton prospect Jordan Eberle made his AHL season debut with Springfield in fine fashion with three goals and six points over a three-game weekend in mid-March. Meanwhile, Vancouver's 2009 first round pick, Jordan Schroeder, kicked off his pro career with a two-goal afternoon for Manitoba March 21 in a home win over Grand Rapids...

P.K. Subban became the second Hamilton Bulldog in as many seasons to set a new franchise mark for goals by a defenseman. Subban recorded his 17th goal of the season March 19 at Lake Erie to overtake Yannick Weber's mark of 16 set a season ago...

Carolina prospects Zach Boychuk, Stefan Chaput, Jamie McBain and Chris Terry all ranked in the AHL's top 15 among rookie scorers at the start of the week.

From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.

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