AHL Realigns: Baby Rangers, Islanders are proper rivals

Lighthouse and mini-camp news tomorrow. For now, this...

Looking at the AHL's small realignment, Tom at Tiger Track notes that the Islanders' AHL affiliate Sound Tigers are now true division rivals with the Rangers' Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL's Atlantic Division. Bring it on.

{sigh} If only the NHL still had four divisions. A gander at that sweet, deep alignment of three seven-team divisions and one eight-team one (the Atlantic) has me again pining for the NHL's days of yore: A six-team Patrick Division (come home, Caps, come home) as part of four distinct NHL divisions -- each with their own bloody, playoff-fueled rivalries and fan-inflated mythology.

The realignment is part of a subtle Western shift for the AHL: The Dallas Stars establish a new affiliate in Austin, Tex., while the Flames relocate their affiliate from the Quad Cities, Iowa, all the way to Abbotsford, British Columbia, as part of a veeery stretched out North Division. Glens Falls, N.Y., is the new home of the Philadelphia Flyer's affiliate (previously in the Philadelphia Spectrum), now known as the Adirondack Phantoms.

If I'm honest, the NHL's current alignment has started to develop a character of its own. And even if we had 7- or 8-team divisions, they still wouldn't have the blood feuds developed by frequent playoff matchups back when 4 of 5 (or 6) battled in the post-season each year. Now it's a divisional badge of pride to get four teams into the playoffs, the way the Patrick and Norris, er, Atlantic and Central did last season.

Besides, if the Isles and Penguins ever face in the playoffs again, it wouldn't take much to make it feel like old times.

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