By Mike Harrington
Making a schedule and aligning a league has challenges but things are getting ridiculous the last couple of days. You wonder if the bright lights who run Atlantic Hockey and decided Canisius and Niagara would not meet downtown in HarborCenter's inaugural season are the same ones who announced the 2014-15 American Hockey League alignment today.
What gives with this?
---Rochester and Syracuse aren't in the same conference, let alone the same division.
---Same for Albany and Adirondack (Glens Falls), which are about 30 minutes apart on I-87.
---Why in the world doesn't the AHL have an all-New York State division of Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Utica, Albany and Adirondack? How difficult would that be? Jeez. I realize Syracuse and Rochester have not been in the same division for several years, but that doesn't mean it's not goofy and shouldn't be addressed.
Some of the shifting around is because of the Calgary franchise moving from Abbotsford, B.C., to Glens Falls, replacing the Flyers franchise that left Glens Falls for Allentown, Pa. The Rochester Amerks will stay in the North Division of the Western Conference with Adirondack (Calgary), Hamilton (Montreal), Toronto (Toronto) and Utica (Vancouver). Lake Erie (Colorado) moves out of the division into the Midwest.
So for the record, here are the AHL alignments:
North Division: Rochester Americans (Buffalo), Adirondack Flames (Calgary), Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal), Toronto Marlies (Toronto), Utica Comets (Vancouver)
Midwest Division: Chicago Wolves (St. Louis), Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit), Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado), Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville), Rockford IceHogs (Chicago)
West Division: Charlotte Checkers (Carolina), Iowa Wild (Minnesota), Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton), San Antonio Rampage (Florida), Texas Stars (Dallas)
Atlantic Division: Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles), Portland Pirates (Arizona), Providence Bruins (Boston), St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg), Worcester Sharks (San Jose)
Northeast Division: Albany Devils (New Jersey), Bridgeport Sound Tigers (N.Y. Islanders), Hartford Wolf Pack (N.Y. Rangers), Springfield Falcons (Columbus), Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay).
East Division: Binghamton Senators (Ottawa), Hershey Bears (Washington), Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Philadelphia), Norfolk Admirals (Anaheim), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh).
The playoff system remains unchanged, with eight teams in each conference qualifying (three division winners and five wild-cards). Fair enough. But the AHL should be looking at a total realignment of its divisions. Sooner rather than later.