"That's What A Development Team Is All About"
Growing up, I spent many evenings at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, PA watching the Johnstown Chiefs take on their ECHL rivals.
At the time, I didnâ€™t understand the foundation of minor league hockey and that the purpose of a farm team is to prepare players for eventual promotion.
So when Bob Woods, Bruce Coles or any other team leader found himself taking the next bus to Hershey of the AHL, I was less than enthusiastic.
After all, losing a fan favorite doesnâ€™t sit well with the fans.
Now, 15 years later, my allegiance to the Chiefs â€“ or any minor league team, for that matter â€“ is significantly less important than my allegiance to the Pittsburgh Penguinsâ€¦you know, the big guys at the top.
Obviously, my perspective has changed just a bit.
No longer do I see minor teams as most important, yet still I can understand why many do.
So, when a story like this hits the press, I have sympathy for those involved with the minor league team â€“ the players and management, as well as the fans â€“ but business is business and the minor league team feeds the NHL team.
Nikita Filatov, a highly-prized prospect in the Columbus Blue Jacket organization, has led the AHLâ€™s Syracuse Crunch to a strong playoff push. In fact, the team sits in fourth place, tied for the final playoff position.
Now, he finds himself with the Blue Jackets, who also are in the playoff picture â€“ though their fate is significantly clearer. The playoffs are likely.
But Filatov wasnâ€™t promoted with intentions of adding a spark to the roster.
The youngster was promoted so he could get a taste of an NHL playoff race, so that he would learn what it takes to win.
Meanwhile, his minor league team could seriously use his help â€“ and those involved arenâ€™t too happy.
“It doesn’t matter how I feel about it. I’m in a no-win situation. You’re not getting me to go there,” Crunch coach Ross Yates said. “This (roster) is what they’ve given me. I’m going to do the best with what I have.”
The reality, though, is that Filatov is property of the Blue Jackets, and he never would have been in the AHL in the first place had it not been for the Blue Jackets assigning him there in the first place.
If Blue Jacket management members feel this is the best case scenario for Filatovâ€™s long-term future with the team, they have every right to execute such a move, even if it hurts the minor league team.
And that is exactly what they did.
“It wasn’t an easy decision. It was talked about at length over the last few days,” said Chris MacFarland, assistant GM of Columbus. “The staff as a unit believes this experience will do wonders for him. There was certainly no desire to hurt Syracuse. We know it’s a tough decision. That’s what a development team is all about.”
The ECHL and AHL exist to serve NHL teams. Such a role often leads to less-than-fortunate situations.
In this case, Filatovâ€™s loss is significant, but I wonder what the Crunch would have done had Filatov played in the NHL for the entire season?
Rather than being bitter about losing a great player late in the season, the Crunch should be thankful they had a great player for most of the season.
After all, without Filatovâ€™s help, the Crunch may not even be in a position to sniff the playoffs, let alone make them.