2 Months Deep: How NHL Teams are Using Their AHL Affiliates

Your newest Winnipeg Jet, Carl Klingberg - Courtesy of Global Winnipeg

As of December 1st, the NHL landscape looked like this in terms of the overall standings: (Oh by the way, if you predicted that a) Minnesota would lead the league after 2 months and/or b) Anaheim would barely have it’s head above water at this point, e-mail me, and I’ll let you make each of my personal decisions for the whole of 2012)

1. Minnesota Wild                        15-7-3                     33pts

2. Pittsburgh Penguins                14-7-4                     32pts

3. Detroit Red Wings                   15-7-1                     31pts

4. Boston Bruins                          15-7-1                     31pts

5. Chicago Blackhawks                14-8-3                    31pts

6. St. Louis Blues                          14-8-2                    30pts

7. Florida Panthers                      13-7-4                    30pts

8. Toronto Maple Leafs                14-9-2                   30pts

9. New York Rangers                  13-5-3                    29pts

10. Philadelphia Flyers                13-7-3                    29pts

11. Phoenix Coyotes                     13-7-3                    29pts

12. Vancouver Canucks               14-9-1                    29pts

13. Dallas Stars                             14-9-1                    29pts

14. Los Angeles Kings                   12-8-4                    28pts

15. San Jose Sharks                      13-7-1                    27pts

16. Buffalo Sabres                        13-10-1                   27pts

17. Edmonton Oilers                    12-10-3                  27pts

18. Nashville Predators                11-9-4                    26pts

19. Ottawa Senators                     12-10-2                  26pts

20. Washington Capitals              12-10-1                  25pts

21. New Jersey Devils                  12-10-1                  25pts

22. Montreal Canadiens               10-11-4                  25pts

23. Tampa Bay Lightning            11-11-2                   24pts

24. Colorado Avalanche               11-13-1                   23pts

25. Winnipeg Jets                          9-11-4                    22pts

26. Calgary Flames                       10-12-1                  21pts

27. Carolina Hurricanes               8-14-4                    20pts

28. New York Islanders                7-11-4                    18pts

29. Anaheim Ducks                       7-13-4                    18pts

30. Columbus Blue Jackets          6-15-3                    15pts

Yes, it’s very early, and no, 9 wins won’t separate 1st place from last place for long – but alas, these are the way things stand as we enter the month of December.

Teams such as the Wild, Panthers, and Maple Leafs are all doing much better than expected, while some usually dominant teams such as the Capitals, Ducks, and Lightning are all floundering. Again however, it’s early. Things can, and almost certainly will change as the season rolls along.

This is all very well and good, but what does it have to do with the AHL or the IceCaps?

I had an idea.

Every 2 months of the season, I will take a look at two things. First, I will look at the NHL standings, given that they depict the successes and failures that the parent clubs of each AHL franchise are having on the ice. Second, I will compare these standings to a second list, which indicates the degree to which each NHL team is utilizing talent from their respective AHL affiliates.  I am looking to examine the relationship between NHL team success and the use of AHL talent, without getting into any statistical analyses.

Below is an Excel Spreadsheet that lists the NHL teams in order, based on how many AHL players they have called up to their main roster in the first 2 months of this season. Take a look.

October and November NHL/AHL Call-ups

For those of you who may be unable to open the document, here are the Top 3, and the Bottom 3 teams in terms of AHL player usage.

1. Philadelphia Flyers (Adirondack Phantoms): 12 call-ups [Legein, Zolnierczyk (twice), Schenn (twice), Rinaldo, Gustafsson, Holmstrom, Wellwood, Bourdon, Marshall (twice)]

2. Buffalo Sabres (Rochester Americans): 12 call-ups [Tropp (twice), MacIntyre, Brennan (twice), Kassian (twice), Szechura (twice), McNabb (twice), Finley]

3. Anaheim Ducks (Syracuse Crunch): 11 call-ups [Newton, Maroon (twice), Jacques (4 times), Bonino, Holland, Guenin, Deslauriers]

…….

28. Tampa Bay Lightning (Norfolk Admirals): 2 call-ups [Ritola, Tyrell]

29. Boston Bruins (Providence Bruins): 2 call-ups [Caron, Hamill]

30. Los Angeles Kings (Manchester Monarchs): 2 call-ups [Voynov (twice)]

From the list, you can see for example, that the Boston Bruins have only made 2 AHL call-ups this season.

As you can imagine, there are a number of reasons why an NHL team would call up an AHLer at any given time. In the example of Boston, they went 12-0-1 in the month of November. When a team is rolling like that, why would you rock the boat by bringing in somebody new and potentially mess things up? Obviously, one factor involved in determining the number of call-ups a team will make is the success the initial NHL lineup has (typically). The inverse can be seen in the case of the Anaheim Ducks, who are currently 29th in the NHL. When things aren’t going so well for an NHL club, the desire to call-up an AHL player quite clearly increases. Anaheim for example, sits in 3rd with 11 call-ups so far this season while struggling from the get go, including calling up Jean-Francois Jacques FOUR times (tied with Detroit’s Brendan Smith and Fabian Brunnstrom for the most of any AHL player so far this season).

Another factor that determines AHL involvement is injuries.The Pittsburgh Penguins, who have done remarkably well given that they have been obliterated by injuries, have made 8 call-ups in the first 2 months of the season (9th overall) to address the gaps in the lineup that had to be filled at short notice. The same is true for teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs. When the Leafs suffered injuries to their #1 goalie, 2 of their Top 6 D-men, and 5 of their starting forwards, the AHL Marlies were used rather often to plug the holes.

In the case of your St. John’s IceCaps, the Jets have called up 7 different players at different times to address injury issues and shake up the struggling lineup (12th overall). Those players are Peter Mannino, Mark Flood, Brett Festerling, Paul Postma, Jason Jaffray, Arturs Kulda, and most recently, Carl Klingberg. Interestingly, if the list I drew up ranked teams in terms of the number of unique call-ups in the first 2 months, they would be tied for 3rd in the league, with 7 different players making the trip to the big club. Only the Leafs, Blue Jackets, Panthers, Wild, and Flyers have used as many or more of their respective affiliate’s players.

As the season rolls along, it will be interesting to track the progress of the NHL teams while looking at the degree to which they are relying on AHL talent in times of need. As it is only early in the season, the connection should only become more apparent with time. Stay tuned as we follow this going forward.

Follow @Normaniac747 and @SJ_IceCaps on Twitter.

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One thought on “2 Months Deep: How NHL Teams are Using Their AHL Affiliates

  1. Pingback: Winnipeg Jets Afternoon News | Illegal Curve Hockey

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