It's hard to say goodbye

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Todd Richards stands to lose the most out of the Edmonton Oilers' move to have their own AHL team next season.

As the head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins - the home for several of the Oilers' brightest prospects this year on a shared team with Pittsburgh - Richards is painfully aware he's going to lose many of his best players.

"It is definitely going to be tough to lose those guys," said Richards yesterday.

"You take a look at what we got now, really the Edmonton prospects are the guys that - offensively - have really carried the load for our team this year."

Granted, six of his players are currently with the Oilers, mainly because of the massive amount of injuries.

Included in that list are two of his top three offensive threats - Robert Nilsson and Kyle Brodziak.

On the positive side, Richards will get five players back from the Oilers for the AHL playoffs - Nilsson, Brodziak, Marc Pouliot, Tom Gilbert and J.F. Jacques.

But then it's goodbye.

"It is really hard," he said of knowing he has no chance of getting any back for next year.

"These guys are like my kids. A lot of the decisions I make and things I do are based on how I would treat my own children."

Although Pittsburgh stocked the majority of the team, players belonging to the Oilers seemed to love Wilkes-Barre.

"It was awesome," said Brodziak, who was last night sent back down to Wilkes-Barre.

"The coaches were great down there. They gave ice time to guys who deserved ice time.

"The fans accepted us."

But Brodziak admits it's best for the Oilers to have their own AHL team.

"You are playing a different system (in a co-affiliated team)," he stated.

"If Edmonton had their own team they would probably have the minor-league team run the same system.

"It would be an easier transition up (to the NHL for players)."


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