Flames new AHL affiliate still unannounced

By Aaron Vickers

Although the National Hockey League lockout has disappointed fans throughout the world, fanatics of the Calgary Flames may have a new reason to celebrate as they look towards a 2005-06 season. Potentially, the Calgary Flames new AHL franchise will begin operations.

Things are far from finalized for a new affiliate, however, a point that General Manager and Head Coach Darryl Sutter made in Lethbridge, Alberta a few weeks ago.

“First of all, until it’s written in stone, there isn’t one,” Sutter told Hockey’s Future.

“There is not a new farm team, I don’t know where that came from,” said Sutter, obviously referring to the fact that an announcement has yet to be made from President and CEO Ken King. It was King who originally said that an announcement would be made in late November. Reports have linked the team with Omaha, Nebraska.

Sutter was less then quiet on the implications of the Calgary Flames sharing an affiliate for the past two seasons.

“Well, what it means is, minor pro team or not, that this year or last year we weren’t in a position to put 20 good prospects in a pro environment,” said Sutter, implying that the club now has the organizational depth to viably field its own farm team.

The Calgary Flames, part owner of the now defunct Saint John Flames, ceased operation of the club after the 2001-02 season, just one season removed from a Calder Cup victory.

Sutter spoke candidly about placing the baby Flames in dormancy.

“The organization had gotten to a point where their pro prospects weren’t NHL prospects, so it was in our best interest, business-wise and from a hockey standpoint, not to have our own farm team, and hopefully go forward as we can.”

An agreement with the Carolina Hurricanes was announced shortly after Saint John ceasing operations. The Lowell Lock Monsters, affiliated with the Hurricanes, would also serve as a partner to the Calgary Flames for the 2003-04 season, an agreement that was extended for this season as well.

The Calgary Flames organization may be more likely to bring over some of its European talent should they have their own AHL affiliate. Not only are the Flames currently limited in the number of players they are able to send to Lowell, finding playing time for those players is a difficult task to say the least.

Without a collective bargaining agreement, however, the Calgary Flames organization is unable to sign any European prospects and place them on an American Hockey League roster, an important point made by Sutter.

“As far as European prospects, until there is a new collective bargaining agreement is in place, there’s no IIHF agreement in place.”

This means that fans of the defending Western Conference champions aren’t likely to see players such as Tim Ramholt, Yuri Trubachev or Tomi Maki playing on North American ice.

In any event, Sutter is sceptical of the quality of the organization’s European prospects.

“We have some good prospects in Europe, but at the same time, are they NHL prospects or are they pro prospects? I mean, again, just because it’s a long ways away doesn’t mean they can play in the NHL.”

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.