The Rochester Americans will have a new division rival for the 2014-15 season.
The American Hockey League approved a realignment plan this past week that adds the Adirondack Flames to the North Division. The Flames play in Glens Falls, N.Y., replace the Abbotsford Heat as the Calgary Flames' AHL affiliate.
The Flames replace the Lake Erie Monsters. The Colorado Avalanche's AHL team will instead play in the Midwest Division in 2014-15.
The rest of the North Division remains the same. Joining the Flames and Amerks are the Hamilton Bulldogs, Toronto Marlies and Utica Comets.
Other changes include the Lehigh Valley Phantons – formerly the Adirondack Phantoms – moving to the East Division and the Iowa Stars moving from the Midwest to the West Division. The Syracuse Crunch are also moving, but regretfully they're not rejoining the Amerks in the Western Conference. Instead, they're moving to the Northeast Division.
The AHL is dominated by East Coast teams. Even so, it would be great to have the Amerks and Crunch in the same division again. Separated by only 87 miles, the two teams make for great natural rivals due to geography. But the glut of teams from the East Coast forces some seemingly unnatural splits.
The same situation exists in New England, with the Manchester Monarchs, Portland Pirates, Providence Bruins, Worcester Sharks, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Hartford Wolf Pack and Springfield Falcons almost creating enough teams for two divisions.
A best-case in terms of generating rivalries would put Providence in a division (have to stick to five teams due to the league's 30-team makeup) with Springfield, Hartford, Worcester and Bridgeport in one division; and Manchester and Portland joining up with the three Canadian teams – Toronto, Hamilton and the St. John's Icecaps. Five New York teams could be in another division, with the three Pennsylvania teams – Lehigh Valley, the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – in yet another division with the two Southeastern squads, the Norfolk Admirals and Charlotte Checkers. The leftover New York team (Albany? Binghamton?) could be slid into the Midwest Division.
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