On Wednesday afternoon, the New York Islanders announced an affiliation with the Stockton Thunder, last year’s ECHL Western Conference Finalists.
The trip to California is going to be a hike if any Islanders’ fans are looking to get in on some of the minor-league action, but the idea of acquiring another official affiliation makes sense due to the Isles adding an abundance of new faces into their professional organizations over the next few seasons. Of course, with limited room on both the AHL and NHL rosters, the new ECHL affiliation will allow the Islanders’ to get their players the playing time they need, as opposed to sitting in the pressbox on most nights at their respective levels.
While the move is a small one, it helps demonstrate the Islanders internal message to all-comers: the Islanders are building a highly-competitive team from the inside.
“The culture of success in Stockton will benefit our prospects and develop them into better hockey players as they work their way from the ECHL, to the AHL and eventually playing for the New York Islanders.”-Garth Snow, this afternoon
Two things stand out in Snow’s quote from earlier today:
First off, the Islanders are continuing to show they believe having the “know-how” to win hockey games is crucial to a team’s development. This has been mostly demonstrated by the Islanders’ track-record of draft picks during the Snow era, and is only furthered by placing said draft picks on a team that knows what it’s like to win – Stockton has appeared in 7 straight postseasons.
Second, Garth’s statement suggests that, in order to make the big club, and also the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, players are going to have to earn their roster spots. The Islanders are building a highly competitive on-ice product by developing a highly-competitive internal structure.
While the notion of an ECHLer reaching the Islanders could be easily brushed off by fans, it should be noted that Andrew MacDonald’s development began with one of the Islanders’ previous ECHL affiliates in 2007-08, and Colin McDonald actually played with the very same Stockton Thunder in 2008-09. Both earned their roster spots in the NHL, and there’s no saying that the same cannot happen to other “scraps” floating in between the ECHL and the AHL.
At the end of the day, the players on each hockey team are going to be where their play suggests they should be, which should give the Islanders three organizations playing at a high-level. Is this a move to be celebrated thoroughly? Probably not. Are we hitting dead-space in the summer? Yes. But the Islanders have given themselves more flexibility in handling their boatload of prospects for the long-haul.