The Adirondack Phantoms will play in a new division come October.
The American Hockey League announced its divisional alignment for the 2011-12 season on Tuesday, placing the Phantoms in the newly created Northeast Division with Albany, Springfield, Connecticut, and Bridgeport. Albany is the only one of those teams who played in the same division with the Phantoms last season.
The league hasn’t decided its scheduling formula yet, so it’s unclear how many times the Phantoms will play each divisional opponent, and how many times they will face former division foes Binghamton, Syracuse, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hershey and Norfolk, which remain in the East Division.
The Charlotte Checkers, formerly the Albany Devils, also left the East Division to move to the Western Conference.
In a six division format, the AHL will use a playoff format that is the same as the National Hockey League.
Eight teams in each conference will qualify for the postseason, with the three division winners earning the top three seeds and the next five best teams in order of regular-season points seeded fourth through eighth.
The conference quarterfinals will be best-of-five series. The conference semifinals, conference finals and Calder Cup Finals will be best-of-seven series. Teams will be re-ordered after the first round so that the highest-remaining seed plays the lowest-remaining seed.
In the context of recent league history, the move places the Phantoms in a less competitive division.
Including the Phantoms, four of the five teams in the new division were the four worst teams in the Eastern Conference last season. The Connecticut Whale are the only team in the Northeast Division that reached the playoffs last season.
Meanwhile, in the Phantoms’ old division, five of the eight teams reached the postseason, including Binghamton and Hershey, winners of the last three Calder Cups.
The new division will give local fans who follow the New York-New Jersey NHL clubs a chance to see the prospects of those teams more frequently.
Connecticut is affiliated with the New York Rangers; Bridgeport with the New York Islanders; Albany with the New Jersey Devils.