What a year it has been. Last season the Wolves were sixth in the Central Division and far off from even contending for a playoff spot. The following year they were atop of their division and one of the more fun teams to watch in the entire AHL. If you’re a Blues fan this season was a true treat a so many rookies made their professional debuts wearing a Wolves uniform. From the likes of Ville Husso, Vince Dunn, Tage Thompson, Jake Walman, and Adam Musil. Not very often you could dress a near starting lineup with nothing but rookies.
The Wolves dug themselves out of a 3-1 series hole in the first round against the Charlotte Checkers, but going to the well twice just didn't work out. Rivals the Grand Rapids Griffins were able to bounce the Wolves in five games after Saturday’s 5-2 win.
Going into the second round clash this one was always going to be about the goals. Sure every series ends with one team scoring more then the other, but the Wolves and Griffins were two of the highest scoring teams in the league. But with the exception of game two, the Wolves couldn't come close to matching Grand Rapids firepower. In total the Baby Blues knocked in 15 goals to the Griffins 22, which featured both sides taking turns blowing out the other in a game.
If you’re going to talk about the goals then the goalie discussion isn't far behind. This is where the issues started to form in the second round. Ville Husso began to tire and was pulled multiple times. Jordan Binnington had been brought in relief but in a decision that left some confused, head coach Craig Berube still chose to go back to Husso in Saturday nights contest. After 40 minutes of hockey Husso was switched out and Binnington closed out the game. The Finnish rookie finished out his first playoff run with 4 wins and six losses, with a save percentage of .898 and 3.36 goals against average. The numbers are far from being “top prospect” worthy but Husso is still considered to be the Blues top goalie prospect. But in reality the numbers aren't entirely Husso’s fault. Often times the Wolves young defense just couldn’t handle the Griffins nonstop offense, which ultimately led to their downfall.
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So after such a strong season what is next for the Blues affiliate? That question remains to be unanswered as once again the agreement between the Blues and Wolves is up yet again. A less talked about story is the Blues ECHL affiliate is also needed to be addressed. This past year prospects had been sent to the Missouri Mavericks, who are now renamed the Kansas City Mavericks. The agreement was a one year deal and there has yet to be an announcement on if that will continue.
Bringing things back to the Wolves the growing rumor is that the Blues and the brand new Vegas Golden Knights will share the Chicago club for the 2017-18 season. This is something that actually makes a ton of sense, in the short term. There has been zero concrete talk on an AHL expansion side, the league itself has even released a brand new conference layout showing nothing on a 31st team. The Golden Knights won’t have many prospects in their debut season so sharing an affiliate for a year isn't the worst idea for them. It’s on the Blues to ensure their ECHL issues are squared away before the fall to ensure every player gets plenty of ice time. The Chicago Wolves could be a very crowded team next season.