Blogs > In The Room with Anthony SanFilippo

Daily Times beat writer Anthony J. SanFilippo takes you inside the locker rooms of the Philadelphia Flyers and the rest of the NHL.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


With what seems like six months between the end of the Eastern Conference semifinals and the start of the Eastern Conference finals, I found myself taking in an AHL playoff game last night between the Phantoms and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

And while it was an ugly game, and poorly officiated at the same time, making for an even worse scenario from the viewing perspective, I did take stock in the players that were NHL caliber playing for the Phantoms.

Well, there's Nate Guenin, the young defenseman who appears to have the chops as well as the skill set to be a back of the rotation guy on the blue line.

And there's Andreas Nodl, a prospect winger, who wearing the No. 40 looked a lot like Vinny Prospal in stature. He's got an NHL future for certain.

Outside of that.... yikes.

Sure, Denis Gauthier should never have been in the AHL, but he's a financial casualty.

And then there's the retreads. You know, the middling guys who are constantly called up or sent down as an NHL season progresses, and yet, none of them ever stick in the Pros.

Those types are Boyd Kane, Darren Reid, Triston Grant, Ryan Potulny, Stefan Ruzicka. etc.

I left the game wondering, what is the real purpose of the AHL anymore?

If it's not to develop young talent to play at the next level, then what is it exactly?

Sure, several of the current Flyers came through that program, but most of them were seasoned in the AHL pre-salary cap, when the AHL was a good, solid, developmental league that provided NHL clubs with a lot of talent.

No longer.

The NHL salary cap has killed the AHL. Because teams can't spend at will, all too often, anywhere between four and six spots on an NHL roster are being taken up by guys who were AHL-only caliber pre-lockout.

Which means, that since the talent level in the NHL has been diluted, the top-tier prospects in organizations are no longer making a stop in the AHL and are going straight from junior hockey to the NHL.

The thought process is, why bother with laboring in the minors against inferior competition when the prospect is already better than a handful of players on your own team playing in the NHL.

That's why guys like Ryan Parent and Steve Downie spent significant time with the Flyers this season and not so much with the Phantoms. It's better to expose them to the NHL game then have them dominate an inferior AHL.

That's why Claude Giroux will most likely find himself on the Flyers roster next year. Ditto James vanRiemsdyk the following season.

The AHL has become a vast wasteland of castoff hockey players, with only the occasional diamond-in-the-rough ever really becoming unearthed.

It's a shame too, because the AHL was once a great league, but the NHL destroyed it with it's cost-certainty.

Another soil mark on the legacy of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as far as I'm concerned.


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