I feel like I left my CD player on repeat… because I believe I’ve written about the Checkers changing divisions a few times already…
For the fourth time in the Checkers four seasons in the AHL, they will be in a new division in 2013-14, though this time, for the most part, the change is in name only. For the AHL’s official release, you can go here.
The new division will be called the West division, which is comprised of four teams from last year’s South division, and one new addition. The Abbotsford Heat are set to join the Checkers West division, and nothing says West Division better than a team from North Carolina, in a city a short drive from the Atlantic ocean and about as far East as you can get!
With the Houston Aero’s departure to become the Iowa Wild, the move of Peoria to New York to become the Utica Comets, other division moves occurred as well.
The Iowa Wild will become a part of the Midwest Division, filling in the hole that was left by the departure of the Peoria Rivermen. The Utica Comets will join the North Division of the Western Conference, where Abbotsford was last year.
It’s interesting to note that the city of Utica is farther east than a number of New York Eastern Conference teams, including Syracuse, Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey. They will have to ride a bus through the Eastern conference city of Syracuse to reach their Western Conference division mates in Rochester, Lake Erie, Hamilton and Toronto.
With the AHL’s realignment news comes very little information on how these divisional changes will affect game scheduling. Unlike the National Hockey League, the American League does not have an exact formula it uses when scheduling teams as far as how many times each team faces their division, conference and opposite conference teams. Instead, it is a mix of choosing opponents, and deciding whether or not they wish to play teams outside of their conference.
In 2012-13, the Checkers had an all-time low of only 12 opponents over the course of the season’s 76 games. They faced only 11 Western Conference opponents, and one in the Eastern Conference. In the Checkers three seasons in the AHL, they have never played Toronto, Hamilton, Rochester or St. John’s (or it’s previous home of Winnepeg). All of the other teams in the Checkers division last season faced each of the teams in the Western Conference at least twice.
Just to put into perspective how few opponents Charlotte faced, here are a few examples of what other teams schedules were like in 2012-13:
- Abbotsford, a team like Charlotte that has no conference teams within driving distance, faced only Western Conference teams, but played all 14 of them.
- By contrast, the Rochester Americans, also a Western Conference team, had 15 different opponents. Six of them were Eastern Conference teams, and the remaining 11 were from the Western Conference. They only faced one team from the Midwest (Grand Rapids), and did not play the Checkers.
- The Syracuse Crunch, an Eastern Conference Team, had 15 different opponents, including four in the Western Conference. They did not play two teams in their own conference though.
While I understand that travel, particularly in the West, can be more of a burden than in the East where a team such as Springfield can travel to 10 different cities without needing a hotel room, it seems unfair to the teams, the competition and the fans, that there is such a huge difference between the number of teams faced.
Many in Charlotte are already concerned about the addition of Abbotsford to their division. Will the Checkers face them a dozen times? No, of course not, and the AHL’s Jason Chaimovitch has already addressed that via Twitter.
Will the Checkers play Abbotsford more than the four games of two and two schedule of the past two seasons? I’d have to assume so, but one more trip to beautiful British Columbia won’t be any more brutal than Charlotte’s usual travel (though the 10 p.m. starts for us on the East Coast will make for some late nights of listening to Jason Shaya!)
Do I anticipate the Checkers getting to play new teams, or having a more balanced schedule this season? Probably not. With the majority of it’s teams in north east, the AHL isn’t designed for balance, and has become even more unbalanced with one more team in New York, and one less in the west. The biggest chance for a new city the Checkers will visit in 2013-14 will be Des Moines, home of the Iowa Wild. I’ve heard the Checkers may return to the cities of at least one of their former Eastern conference foes, but the official word on that won’t come out until August when the schedule is released.
So, Checkers fans… what teams do you wish you could see in Charlotte? What about less of? Who do you think I want to see in Charlotte? (Have I mentioned enough times here at Chasing Checkers and on Twitter what team(s) I want to see in Charlotte? Ha!)