Since the moment the Vegas Golden Knights became a reality there has really only been one name truly linked to them in regards to the AHL. That’s the Chicago Wolves, the current affiliate with the St. Louis Blues.
Why it made so much sense was because there appear to be plans in the works for the Blues to pick up and move their AHL affiliation to Kansas City. We discussed that in depth here. But here’s the problem, the AHL’s President and CEO David Andrews says they have yet to receive an application for expansion.
I don’t think we can go much beyond the middle of March without having a commitment with respect to where each of these NHL clubs are going to [have their affiliate] play and whether we are ready to expand. -David Andrews
Stephen Gross, a reporter from The Morning Call (it’s a newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I had to look it up so I figured I’d save you the time. Don’t worry, they’ve never heard of SinBin.vegas either, so the confusion is mutual) said Andrews put the odds at 50-50 that the league will indeed expand in time for next season.
So where does that leave Vegas in all of this?
It means there’s a 50-50 shot the Golden Knights and Blues will share an affiliate in the Chicago Wolves. GM George McPhee says Vegas will only have “six or eight guys” in the AHL, but the situation in Chicago gets tricky with the Blues still in the picture.
17 franchises in the 30-team American Hockey League — including the Chicago Wolves — are independently owned, rather than the property of an NHL team. At a base level, that means the minor-league team foots the bill for most of its operating expenses and, in return, gets more control of the product on the ice. –Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business
In other words, the Blues send their players to the Wolves and then politely ask if they can be used how the Blues prefer. Now add the Golden Knights to the fold. You’ll then have 25+ players on a roster who are paid by three different organizations, with control going to the only one of them not focused on the NHL.
Mr. Young (Wolves GM) remains steadfast in claiming that the Wolves operate their business “independent of any team” and that they are in no way defined by their NHL parent. Affiliation, for him, is just another league rule. -Ecker
Um… that doesn’t seem great, does it?
That’s not to say the business side of it doesn’t make sense for the Golden Knights. They link up with an independently owned AHL franchise, have an agreement to send a few players their way, which Vegas would be paying for anyway, and don’t have to incur any more costs.
But it’s the hockey side that worries me. Listen to any George McPhee interview since the day he got hired, and you’ll inevitably hear him talk about the importance of the Entry Draft. “That’s where we’ll hit our home runs,” is how he characterized it one time. Yet, we are sending those potential home runs to play for a team that is “in no way defined by their NHL parent club?”
The plan is only for the short term, as the Blues will almost certainly bolt for KC by 2018, and the Golden Knights want to eventually operate their own AHL affiliate and move them west. But if I’ve learned anything about the NHL over the course of this websites 17 month history, the off-ice game doesn’t mimic the speed we are used to watching on the ice.
Only time will tell what kind of impact it might have on the young home runs, but let’s hope it’s not too severe, because if the perceived problem because reality, we’re going to be stuck in it for quite a while.