AHL Lands in Palm Springs

Photo via TheAHL.com

It was shortly rumored, but Palm Springs, California will be the 32nd franchise in the AHL starting in 2021-22. They will be the affiliate of the Seattle Your-Name-Heres and will play in a brand new arena.

The biggest question I have is not if the Palm Springs area can support a team, it’s more a matter of if the AHL will actually make the Pacific Division play a full 76-game schedule rather than the 68-gamer they play now. It makes sense when you have eight teams in your division now, you should be like the rest of the league and not try to hold said league hostage to get what you want like a petulant child. I mean, the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage still have to play a full 76-game slate despite their division counterparts having eight games less.

When they news came out that the AHL was basically bullied by those Western teams to have a 68-game season or they’ll start their own league— the smart play would have been to let them go with their own league and let them flounder a bit before absorbing them. But I guess you gotta play nicey-nice when it comes to those teams because they have some money and some influence. At the same time, you really could’ve been an ass to them and actually forced them to play by your rules and not their own.

Though it’s not all great when it comes to the smaller schedule. Since they’ve come into the league in 2015, none of the Pacific teams playing a smaller schedule have made it to the Calder Cup Final. The rest doesn’t help for the conditioning, I suppose.

We’ll have to see what becomes of the Palm Spring team, it’s a good add to a California market that desperately wants hockey…though Palm Springs isn’t the bustling metropolis I would think for a hockey team. They haven’t had one in the history of hockey that’s been recorded– but I guess it’s a market ripe for the picking.

Comparing the Expansion: Vegas vs. Seattle Round 1: General Manager

The Seattle 32nds are just three off-seasons away from being a real team and we all know that they’ll constantly be compared to the Vegas Golden Knights because…well, why not?? They’re both coming into the NHL within five years of each other, they both are going to fill out the Western Conference, and we’re a culture of comparisons and results– therefore, it’s time to get the wheels going on the comparisons for nothing more but summer content.

On Thursday, the Seattles made their first plunge into the world with Ron Francis being named the team’s first general manager. Francis comes from the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was GM from 2014 until 2018 when he was let go after new owner Thomas Dundon came in. While he had a year off, Francis will have a fresh slate to start off with being at the helm.

VGK COMPARABLE: The Golden Knights were introduced in June of 2016, with their hiring George McPhee in July of 2016. With only two off-seasons to prepare, the Seattles definitely are giving Francis more time to settle. McPhee was still within the game after being dismissed as the Capitals GM in 2014, though– like Francis– had a year off before moving on in his personnel career.

Back to Francis, his tenure in Carolina was short and not so sweet. With only four seasons, Francis didn’t see the playoffs at all and never cracking the 90-point plateau. While the young core was building, he didn’t get to see it through with his dismissal before this miraculous run this year in the playoffs. While he does have that “good hockey guy” label, it’s not necessarily a good thing if he cannot get results from this new team that he’s specifically putting together.

VGK COMPARABLE: McPhee stepped into Vegas with 14 years of GM experience with the Capitals, including eight 40-plus win seasons, seven Division titles, one Presidents Trophy, and one Stanley Cup appearance. He was through the ups and downs and ups again with the Cup final, blending into the desperate times of acquiring an unmotivated Jaromir Jagr which led to the Caps Fire Sale and then the building up the team around Alex Ovechkin. Being through all of those events definitely helped McPhee be able to adjust and got some fate from VGK owner Bill Foley to give him the reins of the team.

The next big step is to start looking for a coach. With the team not starting for another three seasons will be a hard sell for Francis, which is not something Vegas had to deal with as they only were one season out from their start. The biggest question is will Francis go with someone who’s established and already been through the cycle of the NHL or will he actually start with someone fresh and clean and ready for an opportunity like this.

VGK COMPARABLE: McPhee was able to get Gerard Gallant in April of 2017 in the off-season before their start. Thanks to the Florida Panthers silliness, McPhee really lucked out on him and it’s been the best choice so far, as the Stanley Cup appearance and two consecutive playoff appearances have showed. While it is a bit of a luck of the draw for coaches, you can say that Vegas put their money on the right number on the coaching roulette table.


So there we go– the first round of the comparisons everyone is going to make. When you look at it long-term, Vegas has the advantage in spades. They got a GM who was established, knew the league, knew what to do in different situations, and knew who to put in charge. No disrespect to Francis, but his short track record is suspect; though you can say it may rank up with an “Incomplete” grade considering he was there for a shorter time than some.

Tippett Becomes Eighth Coach in Past Decade for Oilers

For the life of me, I don’t know what Dave Tippett is doing. The former Arizona Coyotes’ head coach is now the current Edmonton Oilers head coach, leaving the adviser role he had with the new Seattle Your-Name-Heres and moving into a spot that could be one of the hottest seats in the NHL.

There has to be some respect for him to take on the challenge rather than laying back easy and waiting for the Seattle team to talk. And let’s be honest, with the way teams are with coaches in the recent past– he still could be the first coach of the Seattle team. Yet, you have to think that he got that itch again and the wait would be too much for him– so Edmonton it is.

There’s no doubt to have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the line-up, it’s give the team a fighter’s chance at making the playoffs. However, the biggest deal is…well, everyone outside of those two is the big worry. That albatross of the Milan Lucic contract looms heavy, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is constantly in the rumor mill, the defense and goaltending is suspect at best– so there’s work to be done.

Granted, the whispers of the possibility that Mike Smith is going to Edmonton to follow his buddy Tippett doesn’t bode well long-term for the Oilers; but it hasn’t been stable in net since Bill Ranford left. The defense has plenty of potential, but there comes a time where potential is overdone and disappointment/anger/hatred comes into play– if it’s not already there in Edmonton.

For me, this almost seems like an older version of Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan from a few years back for Edmonton. I know the whole problem with the Oilers before was the old-boys club being in charge and the thought with Chiarelli and McLellan was they ditched that moniker. Now, with Craig MacTavish finally gone and Paul Coffey being let go it; could be a real new start for Ken Holland, Tippett, and crew– but Kevin Lowe is still hanging around– so who knows.

It’s a pivotal time for the Oilers. You have to think the time is ticking to get Connor McDavid to be happy with where he’s at. Hell, his name is already being murmured when it comes to being moved if things don’t get better soon. His no-move clause starts in 2022-23, so there’s three seasons to get it right or else he may want his way out of Edmonton. The question is whether or not Tippett is the guy to spark the team around McDavid and Draisaitl or if it’ll be the third coach for the Oilers to have two great assets, but can’t get to the playoffs due to the team around them.

TEPID TAKE: The Seattle 32nds

The worst kept secret was made official Tuesday, as Seattle was named the 32nd team in the NHL by a unanimous decision. The team will start playing in 2021…labor strife permitting. It was a happening of necessity of getting more of a footprint in the Pacific Northwest, while creating a nice little “rivalry” already with Vancouver, as well as making sure that all the divisions are equal. 

Plus, the price tag of $650M doesn’t hurt either, I’m sure.

However, good on the city of Seattle. They’ve been one of the most vocal group of supporters for wanting a hockey team, it was almost Canadian of them. Of course, with the success of the Vegas Golden Knights, there’s plenty to be excited about because the talent pool could be even better and it could give them an even better start than Vegas…but let’s not put the cart before the horse. 

Of course, with all of this– it shifts the landscape a bit. As mentioned, Seattle will go into the Pacific Division, which will shift the Arizona Coyotes to the Central Division. Obviously, this has sparked the kind of tongue-in-cheek idea of the Coyotes now moving to Houston and not having to switch divisions– but if they’ve survived this long in the desert, they can survive a divisional move and another round of rumors. 

More over, it may make people question the future of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. They play in Kent, which is about 20 miles from Seattle, but will they be able to keep the fan base they have with this new hockey team in town or could this move signal a possible swan song for the team. Sure, other markets in the WHL have NHL teams with them– Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and soon Winnipeg– but Canadian markets when it comes to hockey vastly differ when it comes to US markets. I would love to see it work as a natural pipeline, but I have my doubts. 

That all said, it’s good for the NHL to have a presence like this in the location they do. They go to a city that doesn’t have another winter sport presence on a daily basis (NFL aside, of course), they go to a play that is hungry for it, and they go to a place where there is history– like when the PCHA’s Seattle Metropolitans were the first US-based team to win the Stanley Cup. With the right management in place, they could get back there sooner than later once this team gets off the ground.