AHL Western Conference: North Division

Today starts a three part series on the Western Conference of the American Hockey League.

My AHL posts are Falcon-centric when possible. In the absence of Falcons news, posting tends to be based more on the Eastern Conference, more because the Falcons play their entire regular season schedule within the Eastern Conference.

I wanted to take a look at the Western Conference, as many of the Blue Jackets opponents have their top prospects playing in the West.

Today, I'll be taking a look at the North Division in the West. Tomorrow, the Midwest and the West Division on Friday.

Current standings and affiliations of the five teams in the North Division:


Toronto Marlies (TOR) 6 4 1 1 0 9 23 17
Rochester Americans (BUF) 8 3 3 1 1 8 23 26
Hamilton Bulldogs (MTL) 5 3 2 0 0 6 14 13
Grand Rapids Griffins (DET) 7 3 4 0 0 6 15 21
Lake Erie Monsters (COL) 8 2 5 1 0 5 16 25
Toronto Marlies

Franchise History:
This is the Marlies seventh season in the AHL. Originally an expansion franchise in the 1977-78 season as the New Brunswick Hawks. After a five year stint, the Hawks moved on to St. Catharines, ONT and became the Saints. Another five years and they moved to nearby Newmarket, ONT where they continued as the Newmarket Saints for six seasons. The Maple Leafs then moved the franchise to St. John's, Newfoundland from 1991-2005. In 2006, the Maple Leafs moved the team closer to home, where they've been ever since.

The Marlies have missed the AHL postseason in each of the last two seasons. In the last five years, they've made two trips to the dance, with their deepest run coming in 2007-08 when they made it into the third round, and were ousted by the eventual Calder Cup champions, the Chicago Wolves.

Players to watch:
Forward: Joey Crabb, Joe Colborne, Mike Zigomanis
Defense: Korbinian Holzer, Juraj Mikus, Simon Gysbers
Goal: Ben Scrivens (currently on recall to Maple Leafs)

Marlies Snapshot -
NHL Affiliate - Toronto Maple Leafs
Head Coach - Dallas Eakins
Assistant Coach - Gord Dineen
Assistant Coach - Derek King
Home Ice - Ricoh Coliseum
Website - marlies.ca
Rochester Americans

Franchise History:
The Amerks entered the AHL for the 1956-57 season. The club came into being when the Pittsburgh Hornets became a team without a home when their arena (Duquesne Gardens) was torn down in an urban renewal project. The Amerks were a new team, founded jointly by Rochester businessmen. When not enough capital could be raised, Frank Selke of the Montreal Canadiens and Conn Smythe of the Toronto Maple Leafs stepped in to fill the bill. Rochester has been active in the AHL ever since then.

The Rochester Americans were one of the marquee franchises of the AHL throughout most of their existence. The Amerks have won the Calder Cup six times, and lost in the Finals an additional 10 times. In the heyday of the franchise (1979-2008), the Amerks were the primary affiliate of the nearby Buffalo Sabres. The Florida Panthers shared the club from 2006-08, taking over sole responsibility in 2009.

The past six seasons have not been kind to the Americans. Only two trips to the post season (2007 & 2010), and eliminated in the first round both times.

Things changed dramatically this summer when Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula came to the conclusion that his prospects should be closer to home, rather than cast off in Portland, ME. In the words of Cyndi Lauper, money changes everything, and just like that, Pegula bought the Amerks and immediately moved his prospects from Portland back to Rochester.

Players to watch:
Forward: Zack Kassian, Derek Whitmore, Corey Tropp
Defense: Brayden McNabb, Nick Crawford, Alex Biega
Goal: David Leggio

Americans Snapshot -
NHL Affiliate - Buffalo Sabres
Head Coach - Ron Rolston
Assistant Coach - Chadd Cassidy
Assistant Coach - Jay McKee
Home Ice - Blue Cross Arena
Website - amerks.com
Hamilton Bulldogs -

Franchise History -
The franchise originated in 1981 as the Moncton Alpines. After just three seasons, the team left New Brunswick and became the Nova Scotia Oilers. Four years later, the team moved once again, becoming the Cape Breton Oilers until 1996, when the team moved to Hamilton, ONT.

The Bulldogs have been a consistent playoff performer, winning the Calder Cup in 2007. Some of the more notable coaches who have been behind the Bulldogs bench include Stanley Cup champion Claude Julien. Also, perhaps future Stanley Cup coach (and bane of Columbus) Guy Boucher.

Contributing to the Bulldogs consistent performances over the years have been:

Andrei Kostitsyn
Maxim Lapierre
Tomas Plekanec
Carey Price
Mike Ribeiro
Michael Ryder
Tim Thomas
PK Subban

Players to Watch -
Forward: Phil DeSimone, Brian Willsie, Dany Masse
Defense: Garrett Stafford, Frederic St. Denis, Mark Mitera
Goal: Nathan Lawson

Bulldogs Snapshot -
NHL Affiliate - Montreal Canadiens
Head Coach - Clement Jodoin
Assistant Coach - Ron Wilson
Home Ice - Copps Coliseum
Website - hamiltonbulldogs.com
Grand Rapids Griffins -

Franchise History -
The Grand Rapids Griffins joined the AHL for the 2001-02 season. They had been playing in the IHL when the league folded and several teams were granted AHL expansion franchises. The AHL expanded from 20 teams to 27 for the '01-'02 season.

The Griffins are coming off back-to-back seasons where they have missed the Calder Cup playoffs.

Interesting Facts (from griffinshockey.com):
Fifteen former Griffins were on the playoff roster of the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, nine of whom now have their names engraved on the Cup: Niklas Kronwall, Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, Brett Lebda, Derek Meech, Darren Helm, Tomas Kopecky, Darren McCarty and Chris Osgood.

All 30 NHL teams have had a former Griffin play for them at some point.

Players to Watch:
Forward: Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Francis Pare
Defense: Brendan Smith, Logan Pyett, Brian Lashoff
Goal: Jordan Pearce

Griffins Snapshot -
NHL Affiliate - Detroit Red Wings
Head Coach - Curt Fraser
Assistant Coach - Jim Paek
Home Ice - Van Andel Arena
Website - griffinshockey.com
Lake Erie Monsters -

Franchise History -
The Monsters started play in the AHL in 2007. The former Utah Grizzlies franchise, which had ties back to the IHL, was dormant for a year when Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans bought the franchise.

After four years in the "A", the Monsters finally found their way into the playoffs last season. The Monsters squared off with the Manitoba Moose and took a 3-1 series lead. The Moose battled back, forcing a Game 7. The Moose took that game 4-1 and the series 4-3.

Players to Watch:
Forward: Luke Walker, Greg Mauldin, Hugh Jessiman
Defense: Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie, Cameron Gaunce
Goal: Trevor Cann

Monsters Snapshot -
NHL Affiliate - Colorado Avalanche
Head Coach - David Quinn
Assistant Coach & Director of AHL Operations - David Oliver
Home Ice - Quicken Loans Arena
Website - lakeeriemonsters.com

Tomorrow: Midwest Division

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