NHL vs. AHL: Is the Calder Cup Harder for Teams to Win?

Freddy DollContributor IJanuary 11, 2011

Chicago Wolves Celebrate Winning the Calder Cup
Chicago Wolves Celebrate Winning the Calder CupJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

NHL and AHL fans share a passion for hockey. Some towns have American Hockey League teams but don't have National Hockey League teams.

For myself, I'm a fan of both the NHL and AHL. I often find myself locked into debates with people who are strictly NHL fans.

The debate? Which championship is harder to win: the Calder Cup in the AHL or the Stanley Cup in the NHL?

NHL fans usually point out that the NHL has the better talent. I will concede that fact; there is no hockey league in the world that can match the talent of the NHL. That is really the only part of the argument that NHL fans can win. Other than that, there isn't much difference between the leagues.

Now the argument really boils down to roster moves for me. This is what makes the Calder Cup harder to win: the fact that AHL teams don't control their own rosters.

NHL teams are able to make trades and add players to boost their rosters for the playoff run. AHL teams don't get this luxury. American Hockey League teams are at the mercy of their NHL parent clubs. All roster moves in the AHL are a result of what the parent club is doing with their team.

Sometimes you will see an NHL team make a minor league deal. This most often isn't a case of making the AHL team better, but instead making the NHL team deeper. Other causes of minor league deals could just be the result of wanting to get a player off your team and out of the minor league locker room.

This was the case when the Philadelphia Flyers traded Patrick Maroon and David Laliberte to the Anaheim Ducks in a deal that brought back defenseman Danny Syvret. Maroon was having a rough year with the Adirondack Phantoms and reportedly threatened an assistant coach. The Phantoms eventually sat him out and then ended up trading him.

The other thing that makes it tough for AHL clubs is the fact that at any given moment, the parent club could snatch a key player on your roster. A top scorer on the big club gets hurt? Well, looks like the AHL club's best player is getting called up.

It also happens the other way. NHL player needs a conditioning assignment? Looks like he's playing two games for the AHL team, and guess what? Better make sure he gets the playing time.

Another example that makes things hard is what recently happened to the Phantoms. They went on an amazing run leading up to goalie Brian Stewart winning four straight games and grabbing the AHL player of the week award.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, GM Paul Holmgren is dealing with having three goalies. How does Holmgren solve his problem? By waiving goalie Michael Leighton. Leighton cleared waivers and was assigned to the Phantoms. This move prompted Stewart getting sent to the ECHL to make room for Leighton. From AHL player of the week to ECHL goalie in three days.

These things make it difficult to play well on a daily basis. It would be like having 80 minutes to write an essay, only to have someone come in and steal your pen every five minutes, keep it for two minutes and then give it back and let you resume writing. Would be pretty hard to write, wouldn't it?

Same goes for winning hockey games when your lineup can change at any time and there is no telling when or if you'll get that player back.

Heaven forbid the player that the NHL calls up catches on. Then you could go the rest of the year without your leading scorer or top goalie.

Sure, the NHL teams face adversity with injuries and such. The difference? NHL teams have the AHL club to rely on, and if we are all in agreement that the NHL is the best, that makes the AHL second best. So the NHL team takes the best player from the AHL, who does the AHL team turn to? Well, the ECHL of course, but the talent down there isn't exactly the same as an AHL player on an NHL team.

All these things factored in truly make it harder to win the Calder Cup. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts.

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