With the AHL’s expansion to the West Coast, one of the yet to be released details was what would happen with scheduling for the Californian clubs in the 2015-16 season. Friday evening, however, Commissioner David Andrews confirmed the five new Pacific Division teams would play a shortened schedule next season.
According to LAKingsInsider.com’s Jon Rosen, Andrews told him the AHL’s new clubs – which includes the Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, Stockton Heat, Bakersfield Condors and San Jose Barracuda – will each play 68 games next season, eight fewer than the rest of the AHL. It is, however, unclear whether or not the same will go for the San Antonio Rampage and Texas Stars.
“Our entire league plays an unbalanced schedule,” Andrews told Rosen. “We play predominantly in our divisions, and we play within our conferences, so it won’t be really much less balanced or any less balanced than any of our other divisions.”
With the number of games out of the way, though, the AHL will have to come up with a method for deciding playoff seeding and how a shorter schedule for the California-based clubs will impact conference and divisional standings. That’s especially important should San Antonio and Texas still play a 76-game schedule.
One potential solution would be for the league to base playoff seeding around points percentage instead of solely off of points, which is the current method in both the AHL and NHL. While it’s not a perfect system, it could be one that helps level out what could be perceived as an already uneven playing field, given rest for the Californian teams heading into the post-season could help in playoff matchups.
The 68-game schedule could also be a temporary change, however. There have been rumblings about the Colorado Avalanche and Arizona Coyotes moving their affiliates into the Western United States, which might allow for a newer, more balanced division to pop up as soon as the 2016-17 season. At this point, though, that’s purely speculation.
The full schedule and decision on how the seeding will work won’t be released until later this summer.