Does AHL Success Translate Into NHL Success?


As all Toronto fans are aware the Maple Leafs have recently been eliminated from playoff contention. Something that we all should be aware of though is that the Toronto Marlies have the sixth best point percentage in the AHL and second best in their conference. They are also heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Marlies, being the Maple Leafs minor league affiliate, have a lot of young players that aren’t quite ready for the big leagues yet on their roster. In fact, they have more first round picks since 2008 on their roster then any AHL club.

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Does the Marlies being one of the best teams in the AHL give us a cause for optimism for the Leafs next year? How does AHL success translate into NHL success?

Follow me over the jump to find out.

Being a Leafs fan, I am constantly looking for optimistic ways of looking at next year and thought that looking at the Marlies wonderful season could help me out. I decided I wanted to compare a very good AHL season to their parent clubs’ performance the year after. To do this I decided to take the winning percentage or point percentage of an AHL team one year and compare that to the point percentage of their NHL affiliate the year after.

What I hoped this research would tell me is if a very good AHL club record helps their NHL club to a good point percentage and into the playoffs the following year. I found 30 AHL teams’ seasons that met my criteria. My cut off for AHL point percentage was .610 (this is the Marlies point percentage this year), my timeline was from the 2007/08 season to today. 2007/08 was the last year that the Toronto Marlies made the playoffs and had a point percentage over .610.

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Here is my data:

As you can see there is no linear relationship between AHL point percentage and NHL point percentage but this isn’t what I was looking for. What I was looking for is how the NHL team performs the year after a solid campaign from their AHL affiliate and what we see here is good news.

Only five teams (17%) out of 30 saw their NHL clubs have a .500 or worse record after their AHL team’s .610 or better performance. Out of the 30 AHL teams that met my criteria only eight (27%) saw their NHL club fail to make the post season the year after. The Leafs are one of those teams.

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There can be many reasons for an organization to have success at both the AHL and NHL levels: They can already have two good teams in place, it could just be a fluke or it can be because players were promoted from the AHL to the NHL club and made a real difference (not Joey Crabb).

This years AHL teams that have a .610 point percentage or higher are: 

  • Norfolk Admirals (TBL)
  • St. John’s IceCaps (WPG)
  • Hersey Bears (WSH)
  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (PIT)
  • Oklahoma City Barons (EDM)
  • Toronto Marlies (TOR) 

It’s hard to believe that we may see four or five of those NHL clubs in the playoffs next season but from what these numbers show, very good AHL teams breed a good NHL team.

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The Marlies standout year this year doesn’t automatically guarantee a competitive Leaf roster next year, but it is a step in the right direction. Solid AHL teams are a sign of development and, in the Leafs case, good young talent that will push its way into the NHL.

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