The only competing league at the AA level of hockey, the CHL, is down to 10 teams with long-term prospects that look grim.
Yet the ECHL announced Monday that it will cap its membership at 26 teams – three more this coming season – and be satisfied with geographic balance.
We want to make it a certain number of clubs in the league, and it puts a little more urgency in everybody to do the job right, Komets general manager David Franke said. And, maybe in some way, by capping it, it makes the franchises worth a little more, too.
The Komets, who won the CHL championship last season, are one of four new teams in the ECHL, along with another former CHL team, Evansville, and expansion teams in San Francisco and Orlando.
As expected, the Komets were put Monday in the Eastern Conferences North Division with Kalamazoo, Toledo, Cincinnati and Evansville. The schedule had been announced May 30, and the Komets will play 47 of their 72 games against those teams.
There will be five divisions this season; 14 teams in three Eastern Conference divisions and nine teams in two Western Conference divisions. Hence, the desire to add three more teams for the West.
If the CHL, which had 18 teams in 2010-11, continues to struggle, then Rapid City, Missouri, Wichita, Tulsa or Allen of that league might be attractive to the ECHL. There are also strong indications Indianapolis will get a professional team in the coming years.
The ECHLs playoff format wont be determined until September. Last season, 15 of 20 teams qualified for the postseason, with Florida winning the Cup.
In the 2013 playoffs, the ECHL will use a two-referee system in the conference finals and Kelly Cup finals, a new wrinkle approved at the Board of Governors meetings in Las Vegas last week.
The Komets, who have won four championships in the past five seasons, have yet to sign any players for this season. They would like Colin Chaulk to be a player/assistant coach, a role he previously held.
Hopefully itll be something he wants to do and well work it out, Franke said, adding a batch of signings will come in the next two weeks. Defenseman Bryant Molle wont be among them; he signed with Reading of the ECHL, Franke said.
The Komets continue to consider inking affiliations with teams in the NHL and American Hockey League, something most ECHL teams have. Although it would add more prospects, the Komets would lose control of some of their personnel.