The Allen Americans have announced their new affiliation with the Minnesota Wild for the 2018-19 season, effectively ending their four-year relationship with the San Jose Sharks and San Jose Barracuda.
After the Central Hockey League (CHL) folded in 2014, the Americans joined the ECHL as it became the exclusive third-tier professional hockey league and farm system for the NHL. They announced their affiliation with the Sharks system at the start of the 2014 season. While affiliated with the Sharks, they captured back-to-back Kelly Cup championships, marking a four-year championship streak for the Texas-based team. Leading them to their first ECHL championship, Aaron Dell became part of the Sharks’ system through Allen.
In each of their four years as a Sharks affiliate, the Americans have finished in the top three of their division, twice winning regular season division titles (Central Division champions in 2014-15, Mountain Division in 2016-17). They finished 2017-18 third in the Mountain Division with a 35-29-6-2 record and 78 points — their worst season in franchise history, albeit against a very strong Mountain Division. They were eliminated in the first round of the 2018 Kelly Cup playoffs in seven games against the Idaho Steelheads.
In February of 2017, the team was sold to Jack Gulati, who had also bought the Reading Royals in 2014. It’s possible the new ownership may have been a factor in the decision to not extend the affiliation. The Barracuda signed several PTOs over the course of last season, most coming from teams other than Allen. The Barracuda also didn’t send down players to their farm team — though, they didn’t exactly have an overflowing roster last year, either. Whether those are causes or symptoms of the relationship between the teams breaking down is unclear, but ultimately that leaves the Sharks without an ECHL affiliate.
There are currently fewer ECHL teams than NHL teams, so it’s possible the Sharks will remain unaffiliated as the ECHL looks like continue to expand and hopefully bring more teams out West. The closest unaffiliated team is the Rapid City Rush, who just ended their one-year affiliation with Minnesota. Other options include the formerly Toronto Maple Leafs affiliated Orlando Solar Bears, the Fort Wayne Komets, and the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.