Its July and hockey is in hibernation mode. Its also a time to look back and see what our local hockey AHL team has accomplished.
It has been two years since the Manitoba Moose have returned. It is pretty unique and special to see a NHL and AHL team share the same market and fanbase. Along with Toronto and San Jose, Winnipeg has its NHL and AHL affiliate play and operate in the same city. Fans can see young prospects learn the pro-game for a few seasons in the AHL and then move up to the NHL club down the hall/street. True North Sports Entertainment has appealed to that dynamic by marketing a rallying cry for the Manitoba Moose, “It all starts here!”
It sounds great but when you look at the win-loss record, potential Winnipeg Jets players are starting off on the wrong foot.
|Year||Win %||Playoffs||Avg Age|
* Played in St-John’s, Newfoundland as the St-John’s IceCaps.
The IceCaps/Moose started off quite well but now have three consecutive years of losing and not making the playoffs. I have trouble understanding why TNSE does not spend more money on its AHL club and bring in some top talent to role-model for the younger players. TNSE is selling out NHL games and is making due or better with AHL games attendance. Bringing in more veterans would not only create a more competitive team, but would make the AHL fans happy as well. The Moose could have up to one third (6 out of 18 skaters) of its team be veterans that can help the club win now. Yet TNSE has decided to focus on developing their prospect pipeline. Has this worked? I’m not seeing it.
Doesn’t TNSE see how a successful AHL team helps players develop? Look at Cleveland and Columbus; Hershey and Washington; WBS and Pittsburgh. All have struck the right balance of funneling just enough capable prospects who know how to win. TNSE has done the opposite. They have focused on developing their youth at the expense of success. When the IceCaps were making the playoffs, the Jets got better prospects competing for roles.
Sure, top players will develop despite a losing environment. We just need to see Morrisey, Connor, Comrie, and Roslovic as examples but there are numerous other players (Kichton, Kosmochuk, Lodge, Kostalek, Olsen, Brassard) where you can question whether their development has been harmed by steadily losing.
The Jets have drafted lots of talent but there are only so many roster spots on the NHL club. I don’t see how overdeveloping a bunch of prospects who lose games is helpful or optimal. TNSE’s marketing call has becoming its destiny – “It all starts here!”. The Moose are lost and its the wrong way to start winning.