As announced Monday, May 7 by the American Hockey League at the beginning of their annual Spring Meeting, the league has approved its conference and division alignments for the 2018-19 season.
Starting in 2018-19, the Colorado Eagles, currently qualified for the Western Conference Finals in the ECHL, will jump to the American Hockey League to act as the primary developmental affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado will thus move its affiliation from San Antonio, which in turn will pick up the St. Louis Blues as a parent team in 2018-19 and fully realize a 1 to 1 AHL to NHL affiliate ratio.
The shifting affiliations are as follows:
- Colorado will join the AHL as part of a new-look Pacific Division that will feature 7 teams instead of last year’s 8. Colorado will join the five California franchises (Bakersfield, Ontario, San Diego, San Jose, Stockton), as well as the Tucson Roadrunners. Per Patrick Williams of NHL.com (who does a fantastic job reporting on the AHL, and you should go follow him @pwilliamsNHL right now), this will result in all Pacific teams playing a 68-game schedule, compared to the 76-game schedule played elsewhere in the league. As a result of the addition of the five California teams, certain teams in the Pacific played 68 games and others played 76 through the 2017-18 season; now, per Williams, the entire Pacific will play 68 games each.
- The San Antonio and Texas franchises will move to the Western Conference’s Central Division, which will grow from last year’s 7 teams to 8. San Antonio and Texas join Chicago, Grand Rapids, Iowa, Manitoba, Milwaukee, and Rockford in the new-look Central.
- Departing the Central Division to make room for the two Texas franchises is the Cleveland Monsters, who will shift over to the Eastern Conference’s North Division and join Belleville, Binghamton, Laval, Rochester, Syracuse, Toronto, and Utica.
- The Atlantic Division, featuring the WBS Penguins, will not change.
Even though the AHL’s full schedule and opponents breakdown will be released at some point this summer, I think it’s fair to conclude that the WBS Penguins will be facing a brand new opponent in 2018-19. The AHL’s unbalanced schedule has historically featured a majority of contests within one’s own division (e.g.: Hershey 12 games, Lehigh Valley 12 games), along with at least one home and home series featuring teams in the other division in your conference. Following this to a logical conclusion, with Cleveland (top affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets) now taking up residence in the North Division, I think it’s safe to bet that the WBS Penguins in 2018-19 will be taking at least one trip to Lebron James’s professional residence in Cleveland, the Quicken Loans Arena (also home to the 2015-16 Calder Cup champions).
Check back here all summer for any updates featuring the WBS Penguins.