Tuesday's Talk 10/18

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
The Springfield Thunderbirds played their first game as an AHL franchise last Saturday in Lehigh Valley. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
A new weekly feature this season to generate discussion during the week.

Written by: Tony Androckitis, Twitter/Facebook

Editor's Note: Each week, the plan is to have this weekly feature available for more discussion during the week. While Phantoms/Flyers related questions will be a center of focus, any AHL-related questions are welcome and will be answered here each week.

To submit your questions for next week's edition of Tuesday's Talk, you can simply leave your question in the comments section of this or any article on the website. You can also ask your questions via FaceBook or Twitter (links are in the byline of this article).

The American Hockey League (AHL) began its 81st season last week. It's the most wonderful time of the year. Hockey is back.

This week, Tuesday's Topic covers all of the moving around AHL teams have done in the past two years like the new Springfield Thunderbirds who the Phantoms defeated on opening night. The landscape of the league has changed drastically in recent years and there will be two new AHL teams playing in the Eastern Conference in the 2017-18 season as well.

Of course, your questions are answered after the jump!

Be sure you're also following Highland Park Hockey on Twitter (@H_P_Hockey) and subscribe to our newly created YouTube channel for even more extra content this season!

You can keep Highland Park Hockey on the road providing live AHL coverage by making a donation to our GoFundMe page today. Feel free to share the page!

Tuesday's Topic - AHL's Ever Changing Landscape

There has been plenty of movement in the American Hockey League (AHL) over the past two seasons, and there is plenty more movement on the horizon. Here's a quick refresher for those unaware.

Last season marked the first year that the AHL had five teams in California. Bakersfield (Edmonton), Ontario (Los Angeles), San Diego (Anaheim), San Jose (San Jose) and Stockton (Calgary) all participated in their first AHL season in 2015-16, playing a reduced schedule of 68 games as opposed to the 76 games the rest of the league plays in their regular season schedule.

This season, the westward expansion of the league continued. The Arizona Coyotes relocated their AHL franchise from Springfield, MA to Tucson, Arizona this summer. The Tucson RoadRunners began play in the AHL last weekend. 

Luckily for those in Springfield, the AHL was not lost. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of the Portland Pirates losing their pro hockey team as the Florida Panthers moved their affiliate into Springfield for this season and the franchise re-branded as the Springfield Thunderbirds - the team who Lehigh Valley hosted on Saturday.

There's going to be more AHL movement after the 2016-17 season ends too.

The Montreal Canadiens will be moving their AHL affiliate out of St. John's, Newfoundland after this season ends and placing them in Laval, Quebec roughly 30 kilometers from Montreal's Bell Centre. The Laval Rocket will play in the AHL in the 2017-18 season, and have company as one of two new Canadian AHL franchises next season.

The Ottawa Senators are moving their AHL franchise from Binghamton to Belleville, Ontario after this season, creating a trio of AHL clubs - Toronto Marlies, Laval Rocket and Belleville Senators - along the same major highway in Canada. It will also promote some of the same rivalries that are in the NHL among the Canadian teams.

As you can see, there's been a ton of change in the AHL's landscape. Gone are the days where almost the entire league is located in the Eastern Time Zone. There are now five teams in California, one in Arizona and perhaps more teams moving west in the future with the addition of the Las Vegas NHL franchise.

While the Utica Comets have, in my opinion, the most passionate fan base in the AHL, the Vancouver Canucks affiliate in eastern New York is always thrown into rumors about a move out west.

It will certainly be interesting over the next few years to see how the league's transition to expanding westward works out.

Your Questions Answered!

Q: Do you think Jordan Weal will stay on the third line? You kind of thought he might play on the second line. - via @Jane79591745 on Twitter
At first glance, I thought Weal would center the second line. I guess head coach Scott Gordon figures spreading the wealth and forming three potent offensive lines will create more mismatches. The third line of Martel-Weal-AubeKubel was arguably the top trio from last Saturday's game. The depth up front is certainly special.
Q: Do you expect Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon to split the net 50-50 this year? How many starts for each of them? - via @futureofphilly on Twitter
Great question. I think this will be one of the most intriguing things to keep an eye on this season. Anthony Stolarz is certainly the clear number one heading into the season, but Alex Lyon will definitely push to make it a 1A-1B situation similar to what it is in Philadelphia with Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. I'll throw out some numbers for fun, assuming both stay healthy and neither are called up (which won't happen) - Stolarz (46 starts) and Lyon (30 starts)
Q: Two bad penalties for Fazleev against Springfield. Does that get Straka back in the lineup? - via @kyrish7nd on Twitter
There are going to be ups and downs with Fazleev this year just like with any incoming rookie. He took two penalties, yes, but his play in the neutral zone that showed him being patient with the puck set up Danick Martel's goal with a great play & pass. Don't forget Cole Bardreau is getting back into the lineup this weekend too. I'm not sure who comes out of the lineup. I hope to get a better idea in the team's final practice of the week on Thursday.
Q: Who's the best Media/PR guy in the AHL? - via @LVPhantoms on Twitter
All kidding aside, I wouldn't be able to provide the coverage I have been providing the past two seasons without the help of Phantoms PR guy Dan Fremuth. He makes my job easier and is a pleasure to work with. The ease of access to players/staff allows me to provide the best coverage possible, and that all goes through Fremuth. As for PR rankings, he knows where he stands on my list!


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