Kent Hormann from NBC33 in Ft Wayne reported last night that the Avalanche and Komets would not be affiliated next season. Other sources, including Justin Cohn at the Ft Wayne Journal-Gazette, have confirmed that this will be the case although Komets GM David Franke denied it. The Avs and Komets agreed to a 2-year agreement late last summer.
During this year’s Kelly Cup playoff run, rumors came out that the Komets were unhappy with how player movement went between them and the Avs AHL team in San Antonio. Basically, the Rampage had a ton of injuries and took all they could from Ft Wayne (which is why they are affiliated, by the way) and only sent them back with very little time remaining before the ECHL playoffs began. Which I can understand, it’s a pain in the neck to find warm bodies when your affiliate has 7 or 8 of your best players. I guess having guys like Troy Bourke (pt/gm in playoffs), Trevor Cheek (also scored plenty), Mason Geertsen (top-4 defensive minutes) et al. didn’t offset this. We haven’t heard anything from the Avs side of course but they can’t be satisfied with how Spencer Martin was used sparingly during the season and only started the final playoff game after not seeing the ice for several weeks. Developing the “5th goalie” on the depth chart is probably one of the main reasons the Avs want an ECHL affiliate and it’s very important to the entire pro development scheme.
In my opinion cancelling the affiliation agreement early isn’t a bad situation for either club. The Komets are historically a very competitive hockey franchise and are focused on winning the Kelly Cup every year. The Avs needs are a place to develop young talent and keep a reserve of players for when injuries & whatnot deplete the Rampage’s roster. Those are pretty divergent goals and if it’s not going to work then it’s better to part ways instead of each side feeling they aren’t getting what they would like out of the partnership.
If indeed they part ways, Colorado has a couple options. They can be unaffiliated with a single ECHL club and distribute players to various teams, not optimum but it works in some cases. They can affiliate with another ECHL team, currently the Colorado Eagles and Wichita Thunder are the only independents but that changes every summer, and try to find a better fit. The Eagles would seem to be a good fit but there may be some strife between the two franchises and the fact that they haven’t affiliated in the past with ample opportunities leads me to believe neither side has any great desire to do so. Wichita makes sense being geographically closer to San Antonio, I guess, but having a good fit management to management is probably the key factor in any agreement like this.
In a perfect world I’d like to see the Avs/Rampage find an ECHL team that is competitive but willing to commit to developing the youngsters and depth sent their way, has a coach that shall install a system and style of play that is confluent with Colorado’s and is in a geographical situation such that players can transfer to and fro easily. That’s a lot to ask, but the more of that the Avs can nail down, the better off our prospects and pro development system will be.
More on this as it becomes available.