August 27 2014 07:50PM
The inauguration of the Utica Comets that took place over the course of last season wasn't exactly the smoothest of rides. A squad that was generally undermanned to begin with was put behind the eight ball even further as the year went along due to the myriad of injuries the Canucks had to deal with, plucking their players here and there to fill holes as they saw fit.
The end result was a 35-32-7-4 campaign that had them miss the playoffs, but truth be told most of that can be attributed to the abysmal start to the year in which they lost their first 10 games. While the season was at least somewhat salvaged - with the Comets posting a .650 winning percentage in their final 40 games - thanks to the marked improvement by Joacim Eriksson as the year went along, the one glaring concern that remained throughout was the aforementioned lack of ability up front. Unsurprisingly, a rag-tag group led by Pascal Pelletier, Cal O'Reilly, Benn Ferriero and Brandon DeFazio finished 26th in goals per game.
Now, depending on how September winds up shaking out, the 2014-15 version of the Utica Comets could realistically include the likes of Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce, Dane Fox, Ronalds Kenins, and a healthy Nicklas Jensen.
Their schedule for the upcoming season was released today, and if nothing else they promise to be a heck of a lot more entertaining to watch and follow throughout the next year.
I've gone ahead and put together a handy little table that breaks down how many games the Comets will play against each team next season, and how that compares to the totals from last season:
|AHL Affiliate||NHL Parent Team||14-15 Games||13-14 Games|
|Adirondack Flames*||Calgary Flames||12||12|
|Albany Devils||New Jersey Devils||2||4|
|Binghamton Senators||Ottawa Senators||6||4|
|Chicago Wolves||St.Louis Blues||4||2|
|Hamilton Bulldogs||Montreal Canadiens||10||4|
|Grand Rapids Griffins||Detroit Red Wings||2||0|
|Iowa Wild||Minnesota Wild||2||2|
|Lake Erie Monsters||Colorado Avalanche||2||8|
|Milwaukee Admirals||Nashville Predators||2||2|
|Oklahoma City Barons||Edmonton Oilers||2||2|
|Rochester Americans||Buffalo Sabres||8||10|
|Rockford IceHogs||Chicago Blackhawks||2||2|
|San Antonio Rampage||Florida Panthers||4||2|
|Syracuse Crunch||Tampa Bay Lightning||6||4|
|Texas Stars||Dallas Stars||4||2|
|Toronto Marlies||Toronto Maple Leafs||8||6|
|Lehigh Valley Phantoms*||Philadelphia Flyers||0||4|
|WBS Penguins||Pittsburgh Penguins||0||4|
|Bridgeport Sound Tigers||New York Islanders||0||2|
The most important takeaway here is that the Abbotsford Heat are no more, having moved to Adirondack (who used to be occupied by the Philadelphia Flyers AHL affiliate, which in turn moved to Lehigh Valley). This is noteworthy because it'll save everyone in the West some mileage now that they don't have to travel out to the middle of nowhere (relative to the rest of the league's inhabitants).
One cool additional wrinkle is that the Comets will play 16 different opponents, which is the highest figure out of any team in the AHL. There will be more opportunity to see a wider array of prospects, which is never a bad thing.
The AHL will also be implementing a series of new rules as a guinea pig case study for the NHL, including a 3-on-3 overtime session (which can last up to 7 total minutes, but hopefully won't need to thanks to the long change which has also been instituted), and a game misconduct for 2 fighting majors in a game (down from 3 in the past).
If that goes well, we could very well see it transitioned into the NHL product as well, making its progression worth monitoring. Particularly if the on-ice product becomes more watchable, as is looking to be the case with the sure-to-be improved Utica Comets.