For the first time since joining the AHL, the Checkers will not be changing divisions over the summer.
As part of its realignment announcement from the annual Board of Governors’ meetings this week, the AHL will keep the Checkers in the West Division of the Western Conference. However, the makeup of the division will change slightly, with the Iowa Wild, affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota team by the same name, moving in to replace the relocated Abbotsford Heat.
Rounding out the five-team West Division is a trio of familiar teams: Oklahoma City (Edmonton), San Antonio (Florida) and the defending Calder Cup champion Texas Stars (Dallas). The Checkers have been aligned with those three teams since 2012-13 in what was previously called the South Division.
The relocation of a divisional opponent has fueled changes to the Checkers’ placement in each of the last two seasons. The new alignment will actually reunite them with Iowa, which previously played in the old South Division as the Houston Aeros. In terms of franchises and NHL affiliations, the West Division is now identical to the South of two years ago.
Only one of the AHL’s six divisions, the Atlantic, did not experience any kind of change from last season. The Abbotsford franchise will remain in the Western Conference as the Adirondack Flames, while the previous Adriondack team will remain in the Eastern Conference as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Unlike the NHL, there is no set limit on how often divisional teams face one another. Last season, the Checkers played Abbotsford four times, San Antonio and Texas eight times apiece and Oklahoma City 12 times. The full AHL schedule is typically announced in August.
In conjunction with realignment, the AHL also announced that its playoff format will remain the same. Division winners will occupy the first three seeds in each conference, with the last five based purely on record and the same tiebreakers used in previous years. The first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs will contain best-of-five series, with all other rounds moving to a best-of-seven.