The AHL has officially announced their divisional realignment for the 2015-16 season. With several new teams entering the league next season, the AHL has decided to move to four divisions which mimic the NHL's current system. There are going to be some long trips for the Manitoba Moose and Charlotte Checkers, too.
The American Hockey League will be following in the NHL's footsteps next season, realigning to four divisions instead of the six they used in 2014-15. The realignment was
approved by the AHL's board of governors Monday. With massive turnover in franchise locations from last season to this season, including the expansion to the West Coast and the creation of a Pacific Division, the AHL realignment for 2015-16 will include fifteen teams in each conference. The Eastern Conference will be comprised of the eight-team Atlantic Division and seven-team North Division, while the Western Conference will include the eight-team Central Division and seven-team Pacific Division.
Like most years, the necessity for the AHL to realign was born out of changes to league membership. Each of the Manchester Monarchs, Worcester Sharks, Norfolk Admirals, Hamilton Bulldogs, Adirondack Flames and Oklahoma City Barons will no longer be part of the league next season. In their place will be the Manitoba Moose, Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, San Jose Barracuda and Stockton Flames -- the last five of which will all compete in the Pacific Division next season.
(Image courtesy of the AHL) One of the most notable changes that comes along with the divisional realignment is the move of the St. John's IceCaps to the North Division. While still having to log a gargantuan amount of miles thanks to their remote location, last season the IceCaps' four divisional opponents in the Atlantic Division were all within a short drive of each other. Now, St. John's will have to travel further, including an incredible 1,314 mile journey to Toronto when they take on the Marlies. It's not the furthest distance in the league, however. When the Moose, one of the league's new teams for the 2015-16, travel to take on the Charlotte Checkers, they will have to cover more than 1,600 miles. Further yet is the travel between the two Texas teams -- the San Antonio and Texas Stars -- and their divisional opponents in San Jose and Stockton. For both teams, the travel will be upwards of 1,700 miles. Unfortunately, long travel is one of the necessities of the league, as AHL clubs put down stakes in major cities, often times close to their big league affiliates, where they can draw crowds and still service the NHL teams with relative ease. In addition to the realignment, there are several affiliate changes to make note of for next season. The Florida Panthers' AHL club will be the Portland Pirates. The Phoenix Coyotes will be affiliated with the Springfield Faclons. The Lake Erie Monsters are set to become the Columbus Blue Jackets' farm team, while the San Antonio Rampage will be affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche. In addition, the St. John's IceCaps are now the farm team for the Montreal Canadiens. If you'd like to see a map of the new divisions, there is one available