Today the Kalamazoo Wings announced the conclusion of their affiliation with the Islanders and Bridgeport SoundTigers after just one season. Bridgeport assigned 6 players to Kalamazoo last year: Corey Syvret, Mitch Versteeg, Steve Tarasuk, Justin Taylor, Matt Duffy, and Mike "Human Piñata" Selitto. Tarasuk and Taylor played big roles for the K-Wings as they fell two wins short of the Kelly Cup against the (Brad Thompson led) Alaska Aces. Taylor proudced a point per game asa rookie in the ECHL, he apparently survives the divorce as he was re-signed to Kalamazoo (his status with Bridgeport is suspect considering his success at K-Zoo and other roster decisions at Bridgeport that I'll discuss in another post). The others find themselves in need of employ. Mitch Versteeg was dealt to the currently defunct Trenton Devils; Sellito, Duffy, Syvret, and Tarasuk do not have contracts to my knowledge.
The news of this affiliation is a bombshell to say the least for those that like minor league hockey, but more of a bombshell, Bridgeport, a team that used a team record 60 players last year due to injuries at NY and at Webster Bank Arena. Bridgeport needs an affiliate to immediately call on in the event of injury. This was announced on a Tuesday afternoon, and the Islanders didn't even mention it on Twitter at the time of the announcement. Why? The Isles have lost two affiliates in 6 months, as Odessa left professional hockey for the Junior leagues. Citing "philosophical differences" is a nice excuse, but the team needs to be scrabbling for another ECHL affiliate or should have started lining gone up weeks ago. There was no connections for the Isles to Kalamazoo all summer, the only connection was fans figuring one of Mikko Koskinen or Anders Nilsson playing there as the top goalie. Monday's signing of Jared DeMichiel by the Wings spelled trouble. If this was a bombshell for fans, I have to wonder what happened on Hempstead Highway.
What's it matter anyway; well, the Isles cannot, I repeat CANNOT play three goalies at Bridgeport again, they've done it with Munroe/Lawson/Koskinen and Koskinen/Poulin/Lawson, doing it again would be an absolute nightmare for the developments of Koskinen, Nilsson and Kevin Poulin. The Isles should have, and should have had, an ECHL team lined up to use one of these three goalies as their top goalie and allow him to develop.
Right now the Isles have one affiliate, one as badly buried in Injuries as the big club last year, with zero support system other than random PTOs until April and May and ATOs to junior players and College kids. How is this enough depth to support winning hockey at the AHL and NHL. Right now we're living on the edge….and the twig snapping is very plausible. I hate having wrote that, but, this is an issue.
(Credit, Photo used is, now former footer for the Kwingsfrom Kwings.com)