The St. Louis Blues have changes to make at the pro and minor level next season. One thing is for sure, their prospects will get used to the rivalries in the NHL even sooner.
With the AHL season all but done, the St. Louis Blues are all but officially the major affiliate of the San Antonio Rampage. The Blues and Rampage had a working relationship in 2017-18, but they were still the main affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche at the time.
Now, St. Louis will be in control. Well, they will have their players as the main focal points of the Rampage. The official control of the Rampage is somewhat in the air, though most affiliates cede some control to their parent club.
The interesting thing about the switch will be the fact that the Rampage will be moving homes themselves. Formerly playing in the AHL’s Pacific Division, the Rampage will now be in the Central Division. Whether it was intentional or not, the divisional realignment now better reflects the rivalries of the NHL.
With the exception of Colorado and Vegas being reversed, all the NHL Central Division teams are now affiliated with Central Division AHL teams. Vegas will be in the Central as they control the Chicago Wolves and Colorado has the Colorado Eagles, but the rest are correct.
AHL Central Division:
Chicago Wolves (Vegas Golden Knights)
Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings)
Iowa Wild (Minnesota Wild)
Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg Jets)
Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators)
Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks)
San Antonio Rampage (St. Louis Blues)
Texas Stars (Dallas Stars)
The benefit of this will be for the fans. Though rivalries will never fully approach the pre-free agent days, the earlier you grow a disdain for someone, the more it carries though.
So, if Jake Walman gets under someone’s skin for the Rockford IceHogs, it can continue when those players make the NHL and face the other as Blues and Blackhawks. The same could be true if Ville Husso gets in the head of someone from the Texas Stars.
None of this changes the impact a player might have in the NHL. It also does not guarantee success for any of the parent clubs. Rockford is in the Calder Cup Final, but that does not automatically mean that Chicago will be back to winning Stanley Cups soon.
Still, having bragging rights of defeating your rival’s minor league team has benefits. If the Rampage do better than, say, Milwaukee, then Blues fans can at least ponder if the Blues’ future is brighter than the Predators’ future.
It seems unlikely that the AHL considered affiliation when dealing with realignment. Nevertheless, it is a pleasant side effect.
Future Blues and Blackhawks can now battle in San Antonio and Rockford. They can duke it out in Manitoba or Texas. Also, we get the added bonus of trying to stick it to the Wolves after their snub of the Blues affiliation simply because the Wolves owner had a man-crush on George McPhee.