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.
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.