Calgary Flames AHL Affiliate Stockton Heat To Play Shortened Schedule


The Calgary Flames new American Hockey League affiliate, the Stockton Heat, will play a shortened schedule next season, Dave Andrews, Commissioner of the AHL announced yesterday. The top minor league announced earlier this summer, their plans to expand more to the west coast, specifically to California where there will be five new teams next season.

Along with Stockton, the Bakersfield Condors (Edmonton Oilers), San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks), Ontario Reign (Los Angeles Kings) and San Jose Barracudas (San Jose Sharks) will form the Californian division. Each of these five teams will play just 68 games next season, while the rest of the AHL will play 76.

This is obviously an unheard of schedule, with a handful of teams playing less than the rest of their counterparts in the league. How can the league come up with a fair playoff format when one-sixth of the league is playing eight less games than everyone else?

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They could go to a divisional format like the NHL has, but there are two other teams – San Antonio Rampage and Texas Stars – in the division with the California teams. Andrews announced that five teams would be playing a condensed schedule, not seven, so maybe they will use a points percentage instead of overall points to decide whether or not the Flames top affiliate will be a playoff team next season.

Apr 11, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Providence College Friars goalie Jon Gillies (32) celebrates with defenseman Kyle McKenzie (5) and forward Steven McParland (15) after defeating the Boston University Terriers 4-3 in the championship game of the Frozen Four college ice hockey tournament at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Heat will have several new intriguing faces joining them this season. Assuming top prospects don’t crack the Flames roster full time this season, former first round picks Morgan Klimchuk and Emile Poirier will be leading the charge offensively for the Heat and hulking right winger Hunter Smith will be joining them after winning a Memorial Cup championship with the Oshawa Generals.

Also joining the AHL squad for the first time will be goaltender Jon Gillies who just finished his NCAA career with Providence College. The third round pick in the 2012 draft will be a fun prospect to watch as he is coming off a National Championship with Providence last season and also represented the United States as the starting netminder in the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships.

You could make an argument that playing less games in a development league will hurt the overall development of some of the Flames top prospects. However, dropping from 76 games to 68 is not ideal, but isn’t enough to do damage to the future development of the Flames top prospects.

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