(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.) As the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, the expectations for the Grand Rapids Griffins are high. And slowly, like Red Wings, the Griffins are becoming a consistent playoff threat thanks to the deep talent pool the Red Wings have assembled. It helps that the Red Wings’ developmental strategy allows young players to grow in the AHL for a few seasons before making the jump to the NHL, and it’s turned the Griffins into an ultra-competitive team over the past three seasons. This past season, the club made the Western Conference final for the second time in three campaigns, and with a stable of returnees that could include Andy Miele, Landon Ferraro, Anthony Mantha, Mitch Callahan, Mark Zengerle and Tomas Nosek, there aren’t many things to worry about in Grand Rapids. Even on the backend, the only major change will be the potential addition of Robbie Russo. The only real loss is that of Kevin Porter, who signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Porter has been replaced with Eric Tangradi, who notched 14 goals and 31 points in 48 AHL games in 2014-15. As far as concerns, goaltending could be one area where the Griffins aren’t as strong as other top competitors. Jared Coreau could stand to take the top AHL spot from Tom McCollum this season after outplaying his AHL counterpart in 2014-15, but if Coreau takes a step back, McCollum will be the Griffins’ best hope between the pipes.
Team History: The Griffins franchise began in the now-defunct IHL and, like several other minor league clubs, came over to the AHL when the IHL folded in 2001. While they’ve long been the Red Wings’ affiliate, the Griffins’ tenure in the AHL actually began as the top affiliate of the Ottawa Senators. After the first season, however, the Senators affiliation shifted and the Red Wings came aboard. For the past 14 seasons, the Red Wings and Griffins have remained partners and much of the success the club has had comes from the depth of prospects the Red Wings have had on a yearly basis. Though, unlike Detroit, there hasn’t quite been the same post-season consistency. Out of the gate under the Red Wings in 2002-03, the Griffins made the conference final, but lost in seven games to the Houston Aeros. In 2003-04, the Griffins would again make the post-season, but were swept out in the first round by the Chicago Wolves. After failing to make the post-season the following year, they would come back in 2005-06 and rattle off two straight post-season appearances, including another trip to the conference final, but then proceeded to miss the post-season for four of the next five seasons from 2007-08 to 2012-13. In 2012-13, though, the Griffins got hot at the right time. After winning the Midwest Division, the Griffins entered the post-season and lady luck was on their side. They squeaked out a tough 3-2 series victory over the Aeros in a best-of-five opening round, defeated the Toronto Marlies in six games and narrowly beat the Oklahoma City Barons in seven. In the Calder Cup final, against a Syracuse Crunch team that had won the Calder Cup the year prior as the Norfolk Admirals, the Griffins captured the AHL championship in six games. The Griffins haven’t returned to the Calder Cup final since, but they’ve been close. In 2013-14, they were ousted by the eventual Calder Cup champion Texas Stars, and they came within two victories of returning to the final in 2014-15. In Grand Rapids’ AHL history, the all-time leader in the games played (363), goals (102), assists (135) and points (237) is Francis Pare, who spent five seasons with the club from 2008-13.
Logo History: The name Griffins doesn’t have any significance or tie-in to Grand Rapids and was chosen via a name-the-team contest, and it’s hard not to applaud the Griffins’ staff for making sure the logo wouldn’t be something overly modernized. In the mid-1990s, when the club made its IHL debut, it would have been easy to go with a modernized design, but the directive was to make something classic.
What was born was the Griffins logo that lasted nearly 20 seasons — albeit with some slight alterations. When the club first hit the ice, the logo used navy blue and gold as their primary colors, while also using green, red and silver to add detail. By the time the Red Wings came aboard in 2002-03, the green was dropped from the logo, but the rest remained. The updated logo, which the Griffins began using in 2002-03, remained the team’s primary crest until this past summer.
Current Logo: The Griffins unveiled a new primary mark this off-season, but it’s actually been one they’ve used as part of an alternate jersey since 2012-13. The old Griffins logo was absolutely classic, but it’s hard not to like the new mark, too. It’s got harder lines, looks much more vicious and there are subtle touches that make it pop. One of the major new additions to the crest is that the griffin is protecting the Grand Rapids skyline and Van Andel Arena, the Griffins’ home rink. It's worth noting that the Griffins, even with their partnership with Detroit, have never had a red and white logo as their full-time primary crest.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)