Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wherein I rant about the NHL-CHL "No AHL for you!" agreement

The player development potential of the
AHL is retarded by a private
agreement between the NHL and the CHL
I'm working on a piece (two now, actually) regarding the ascendancy of Ryan Johansen to the big leagues, and this little tidbit clearly will influence what and how I write my material.

At the same time, I want the Johansen posts to be about him and his place in the Blue Jackets, so I'll segregate this information in a separate post and link to it later.  (Apologies for the bad form of re-posting four entire paragraphs worth of information, but this is meaty stuff that takes a little while to sort out.)
There's a good bit of confusion about the rules surrounding junior players because they're not in the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement, something everyone can access. The rules are in a private agreement between the NHL and CHL (Canadian Hockey League, made up of the QMJHL, OHL and WHL). A lot of people think the AHL has a rule that someone has to be 20 to play there. Common misconception. It's not a rule made by the AHL. If it were up to them, they would take everyone over 18. Officially that's the AHL's policy in fact. 
The NHL/CHL agreement states that a player with junior eligibility signed by an NHL team must be returned to his junior team if he's not playing in the NHL. It's part of a deal that provides CHL money for players produced (sort of like the IIHF agreement between the NHL and European countries). The NHL agrees to send the teenagers back because CHL needs these players - its top players -- to make money. If the CHL didn't make money, they couldn't produce players. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. 
Specifically, the rule says that if a player played in junior before they were drafted by the NHL, then they have to either be 20 years old by Dec. 31 OR have played four years of junior in order to play in the minors . That second condition rarely comes into effect. It would only apply to players who began in the CHL at age 15. 
Players who are not drafted from the CHL, like NCAA and European players, aren't held to these rules. Players who were drafted out of Europe and then play in the CHL later, can play in the minors under the age of 20. European players drafted out of the CHL are held to it. Nationality is not part of the equation -- it's where you were drafted from (which league developed you).
This stinks.

I appreciate the major junior programs' desire to have star teenagers play in their leagues, sell their tickets and keep them afloat.  But I'm not a major junior hockey fan.  I'm an NHL fan.  And when a policy like this has the potential to screw up a young player's development (as in too good for major juniors but probably not good enough to play in the NHL - making them a prime candidate for the AHL), I'll cry foul.

It was OK for the CHL to bring 15-year-old John Tavares up
to major juniors, but it's not OK for an NHL team to assign
a junior player to an AHL team?  Whatever.
Before anyone gets all weepy over the perceived plight of the major junior hockey programs, remember that they have their cake and eat it, too.  Hockey Canada has an "Exceptional Player" category (p. 16 of the PDF) that allows them to drop down and poach 15-year-olds for Canadian Hockey League (major junior) teams.  This status is not often used - apparently only Jason Spezza, John Tavares and Aaron Ekblad got this treatment (maybe others, but I can't find a good list...oh, wait, maybe not Spezza) - but it exists.  Yet they won't allow truly exceptional major junior players to make an early step up to the AHL.  It's NHL or back to the CHL.  No middle ground.

I don't know if 19-year-old Ryan Johansen is good enough to play in the NHL.  However, everything I've heard suggests that he probably has nothing to gain, developmentally, by playing in the CHL again.  So why impede him from making the next logical step in his career progression?  While we're at it, why force NHL teams to choose between different ways to stifle a young star's development (sitting in the press box or playing against inferior talent)?

Again, this stinks.  It's a silly arrangement that the NHL was dumb to enter into, at least without the same "Exceptional Player" caveat that the CHL enjoys.

End of rant.  Johansen posts coming soon.

1 comment:

  1. The simple solution to this is $$! Pay the entry fee or whatever to get the player clear of the CHL. Because that is what it is all about. Please deal with this Mr. Bettman.

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