In professional hockey, the conventionally accepted team-building method is to find talent in the draft, develop players in the American Hockey League, and pick up missing pieces through trades. It’s much easier said than done, though; ego, impatience, and inconsistency can all derail an organization’s path to a championship.
The relationship between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Rockford IceHogs is one of the best examples of what NHL teams strive to achieve with their AHL affiliates. Rockford consistently produces players ready for recall and to produce at the NHL level while still putting a winning product on the ice. Despite seeing an average of more than 10 players recalled to play in Chicago every year, the IceHogs have posted a winning record in each of their eight affiliated seasons and are well on their way to their ninth winning campaign.
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There is no reason in the world why the Blues should not be doing this... but as long as they are saddled with a "development" affiliate who is more focused on their own profit than on doing what AHL clubs are supposed to be doing -- which is developing the next generation of NHL players -- the Blues are, in your GTPD's humble opinion, screwed.
The Blackhawks, for as much as Blues' fans hate them, are leading the way and showing how an AHL affiliate can not only develop the next generation of NHLers, but also be something other than a drag on the parent club's financial position.
Here's a hint, Mr. Stillman: It starts with getting involved in the affiliate's community... something the Blues did not do very well in Peoria, and are not doing at all in the Chicago suburbs.
Much, much more to come on this subject.