When the Wolves open their season Friday night at the Texas Stars, it will begin a new era for the franchise. Rocky Thompson will make his AHL head coaching debut, and the team will play its first regular-season game as the AHL affiliate of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
But there also will be remnants of the team’s past.
Though the Wolves have no formal relationship with the Blues, St. Louis already has sent some players to Rosemont and will continue to do so this season. The Blues — who paired with the Wolves from 2013-14 to the end of the 2016-17 season — won’t have a primary affiliate of their own until next season and have assigned players to the Wolves and San Antonio.
Theoretically, having players from multiple teams could cause headaches for Thompson and the Wolves. They’re running Vegas’ systems and are tasked with developing its prospects as the Golden Knights build their franchise. But at the same time, the Wolves will use players whose rights belong to the Blues and who need ice time and opportunities for important roles to continue their own progression.
Yet, if Thompson sees any issues arising from the arrangement, he isn’t saying.
“Once you’re here, they’re a family, and they’re a team. They’re a part of the Chicago Wolves,” Thompson said. “That’s what they need to understand and to buy into, and it’s our responsibility to do it.”
Thompson wants to build an atmosphere in which the best players will get the ice time. If that holds, it means the best players will play, regardless of whether they belong to Vegas or St. Louis.
It’s a message he gladly shares with people from those teams, and one he lays out clearly to anybody who asks.
“Within the roster, it’s always about competition, to fight for the positions that you earn, not what you’ve been given,” Thompson said. “That’s something that I was brought up on and played with and have coached that way for 10 years, and I see the greatest results are in environments that foster those types of things.
“That’s what we want to create here. At the end of the day when you come through that, it’s not the easiest way. Sometimes it’s not the most liked way, but it’s the way that, in my opinion, that develops the best. You win, you get rewarded, and you move on.”
NBA G League expands playoffs
The NBA G League announced it is expanding its playoffs to 12 teams and four rounds. The first three rounds will be single elimination before a best-of-three finals. The league also will use four-person officiating crews during the entire preseason and November regular-season games.
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