Heading into the 2023-2024 campaign, the Carolina Hurricanes are without both an AHL and ECHL affiliate.
The Chicago Wolves announced their decision to become independent, while the Norfolk Admirals struck a deal with the Winnipeg Jets.
For Chicago, their move away from the Hurricanes’ organization stemmed from the desire to win over developing Carolina’s prospects. During the 2022 Calder Cup Finals, the Hurricanes’ front office threatened to fire then Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky if he continued to play goaltender Alex Lyon over Pyotr Kochetkov, according to Inside AHL Hockey.
“Our coach was being dictated on who to play in goal,” said Chicago general manager Wendell Young. “Lineups had to go through Carolina.”
Kochetkov made his NHL playoff debut in Carolina, earning a 1-2 record with a .950 save percentage before returning to the AHL for the Wolves’ postseason run.
Lyon, who was 28 at the time, was, in Chicago’s mind, the netminder that gave them the best opportunity to win, while the Hurricanes’ focus was on developing Kochetkov. Lyon appeared in 12 postseason games with the Wolves, allowing 2.03 goals per contest with a .923 save percentage.
Kochetkov saw action in half as many playoff contests, surrendering 1.65 goals a game with a .950 save percentage.
While Warsofsky left in the offseason after accepting an assistant coaching position with San Jose, Young remained in Chicago, dealing with the ramifications.
“The year we won ? We were super competitive and everything fell into place. The next year , totally different philosophy,” said Young. “Our coach was told: ‘don’t worry about winning this year.'”
Now, all Chicago will worry about is winning. For the first time since joining the AHL during the 2001-2002 season, they will be without an NHL affiliate.
Although Young and the Wolves’ brass blame the change in philosophy from up top, their track record with affiliates certainly raises eyebrows.
Since parting ways with the Atlanta Thrashers as they moved up north to Winnipeg, Chicago has been affiliated with five different organizations.
Vancouver, St. Louis, and Vegas were partnered with the Wolves for multiple seasons, while Chicago was the affiliate for both Carolina and Nashville during the shortened 2021 campaign.
Young believes that the breakup with Carolina is not a good look for the Wolves, the AHL, or the NHL, but he places the blame elsewhere.
“We didn’t make this decision,” said Young. “Carolina did by their actions.”