For the first time in nine years, the Washington Capitals will not be represented in the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Hershey Bears (39-27-5-5) finished in ninth place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference, two points behind the eighth-seeded Norfolk Admirals for the final playoff position. The 76-game AHL regular season concluded Saturday, with the Bears missing the postseason for the first time since partnering with the Capitals in 2005.
With Washington having already missed out on the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals are one of only six franchises without any representation in both the NHL and AHL postseasons (along with the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Vancouver Canucks).
The Bears led the AHL in attendance for the eighth straight year with an average of 9,664 fans per game at Giant Center and Hershey is widely viewed as the best market in minor league hockey.
But just as the Capitals have seen their productivity dip since their Presidents’ Trophy winning season in 2009-10, the Bears have seen a similar drop since winning their second straight Calder Cup that same year.
The Bears have also taken on a different look over the past few years, counting on more free agents (professional or college) and trade acquisitions and relying less on Capitals draft picks- which is likely a factor of what is (or isn’t) being trickled down to Hershey.
Consider that the 2009-10 Bears won the AHL championship with a lineup that was littered with ten Washington draft picks (Karl Alzner, Chris Bourque, John Carlson, Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth and Mathieu Perreault were among them), while the 2013-14 Bears saw just two Capitals draft picks dress in at least 20 games (goalie Phillipp Grubauer and defenseman Patrick Wey).
In addition to Grubauer and Wey, other Bears who saw time with the Capitals this season included forwards Chris Brown, Nicolas Deschamps, Michael Latta and Casey Wellman as well as defensemen Julien Brouillette, Cameron Schilling, Nate Schmidt and Tyson Strachan.