West Valley City • There is the ability to develop players for a playoff team and — the Utah Grizzlies hope — an eventual Stanley Cup contender.
There also is closer proximity to an organization that wants to play fast-paced hockey. And developing players for an organization that has traditionally enjoyed a strong following in Utah.
Those are some of the reasons the Utah Grizzlies were ecstatic on Thursday to launch their new affiliation with the Colorado Avalanche. The partnership, announced last week, begins Sunday.
“We have a lot to offer and so do they,” Grizzlies coach and general manager Tim Branham said Thursday. “Colorado takes development very seriously. They are going to be very involved as we put together our roster and we can’t wait to get started. When you have the depth that they do, it makes everything easier.”
Utah had previously been affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks. The Grizzlies’ front office and staff believe a closer proximity to the Avalanche will help with player movement and development.
Development is what Colorado has emphasized in past seasons. While not a prime free agency location, the Avalanche took the youngest team in the NHL and accumulated 95 points on their way to returning to the postseason.
That represented a 47-point increase from the 2016-2017 season, the fourth largest in league history. With the help of their affiliation with the Grizzlies, the Avalanche hope to continue their ascent up the NHL ladder.
With the rise of the Las Vegas Golden Knights — who played for a Stanley Cup in their inaugural season — Colorado knows regional dominance isn’t assured. An affiliation with the Grizzlies, who have been one of the better ECHL teams during Branham’s tenure, could help the Avalanche on and off the ice, as Utah has been to the playoffs in 10 of its past 11 seasons.
“To have our young players be in a place that we trust is critical,” Colorado assistant general manager Craig Billington said. “We are young, we want to play fast and we want to have an entertaining product, and we did that this season. My challenge is to make sure our affiliations buy into that plan. We have an expectation of winning and developing. Salt Lake City, from a geographical standpoint, is tremendous. It’s ideal. Ultimately, our management teams and our ownership lines up really well.”