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Don Levin knows what he wants from next Wolves affiliation

The Wolves are again looking for a partner that will balance development with winning and using experienced players at the AHL level.

Veterans like Chris Chelios, seen with the Wolves in 2009, are the kind of players chairman Don Levin thinks can help develop young prospects.
Sun-Times File

Chairman Don Levin knows what he wants in the Wolves’ next affiliation.

“Somebody that understands that to develop young players you need to have a winning culture, and you need to surround them with players that can make them better,” Levin said. “A lot of teams believe that all they do is put them on the ice more time, more time, more time on the ice. What happens is, you have people that don’t know how to make them better.”

For the fifth time since 2010, the Wolves will be finding a new parent club,. That means the Wolves are again looking for a partner that will balance development with winning and using experienced players at the AHL level.

Levin used an example from 2009-10 when Chris Chelios paired with young defenseman Arturs Kulda. Kulda went onto a long career mostly in Europe, and was a plus-46 in 66 games next to Chelios.

“The reason he did is because Chris Chelios showed him what he’s supposed to do,” Levin said. “If you put kids out there with other kids that don’t know or have the experience and the knowledge, they go out and they don’t know how to get better. They want to get better, but they don’t know how. A coach can coach during practice, but on the ice it’s a different situation. The coaches may not have been a defenseman or a forward or a goalie, so they don’t have the experience to show these young (players) how to be better.

“It’s important. It’s hard to find that.”

Levin pointed to how NHL teams want to bring up young players because of how much the top ends of rosters are getting paid. To Levin, that’s brought players to the NHL who may not be ready and could use another year or two of seasoning next to veteran players on a team also trying to win.

“They’d just learn more,” Levin said. “There are some teams that understand that, and some general managers that understand that. That’s what we’re looking for.”

When the change happens, Wolves fans will have to connect with a new team’s prospects. But considering the fluidity of AHL rosters, few players have stuck around Rosemont long enough for an enduring connection to be created.

“Part of the problem is we haven’t had players here for a long time,” Levin said. “That’s part of the next part of the equation, is trying to deal with somebody and saying, look, we want to have three or four players that we want to sign for three or four years that we have them and become more Chicago Wolves players. They have to be good to develop the younger players.”