Security and freedom are not always completely compatible.

Years ago, most IHL teams gave up the security of NHL affiliations to control their own rosters and franchises. But that new-found independence was short-lived and now most IHL teams look favorably at the chance to associate in some way with an NHL club.

Utah has been affiliated before, but for the past two years, the Grizzlies have been independent. Last year, they didn't make the playoffs for the first time in team history. This year, they could go all the way.

So does an affiliation make a difference? How would having an NHL affiliation change Utah's team?

As the Grizz gear up for their Turner Cup run, rumors of an affiliation with the Dallas Stars loom on the horizon. The team's president, Tim Mouser, said a number of options are being discussed, but no decision will be made until both teams are finished with their respective playoffs.

One benefit is an affiliate would subsidize salaries, travel and living expenses, which reduce operating costs for the Grizzlies, Mouser said.

General manager and head coach Bob Bourne said an affiliation — with any team — would most likely mean about 10 skaters and two goalies sent to Utah by the parent team.

"That would leave room for about 7-10 of our own guys," he said. "They're most likely going to be young and inexperienced . . .There's so many pros and cons." For instance, he said, "You can't control who they send you." And knowing that the NHL team is sending the players here for experience could affect a coach's decision about who to play in a pressure situation.

For example, say the team is down 3-2 with one minute to go. Does the coach play the more experienced player (who may not belong to the NHL affiliate)? Or does he play the rookie so he gets experience in a tough situation, even though he might cough up a goal? "It makes those kinds of decisions a little more strained," Bourne said.

A former NHL player himself, Bourne has had amazing good luck in finding excellent players that other IHL teams have turned away. For example, Darcy Werenka played in Europe last year and made the team by attending training camp this summer. Taj Melson was going to be released by Chicago, and Zarley Zalapski was released by Long Beach.

Werekna is the league's top goal scorer among defensemen. Zalapski was signed by Philadelphia Flyers a few months ago and just returned to Utah after some wheeling and dealing by Bourne. And Melson, well, Bourne believes he's so valuable to the Grizz, he traded popular defenseman and virtual Grizzlies' icon Gord Dineen to keep him.

He said finding players who haven't had a break yet but who have the ability and desire are his favorite to coach.

"These are the guys on the cusp," he said. "These guys would be pushed out of our line-up."

On the flip side, he points out that the younger guys sent to a team by an affiliate bring "an awful lot of enthusiasm."

"They help your veterans pick up the pace, especially at practice," he said.

It may seem that an affiliation would tear a coach between training for the NHL club and winning games at any cost for the IHL team. Bourne said his loyalty and objective wouldn't change with an affiliation.

"I still have to do what is best for the Grizzlies," he said. "That, in time, will tell whether our relationship will work out. I've really loved my job because of the independence . . . If we're in a conference like we were this year, where it's tight all the time, (the NHL team) might not be happy because some guys won't play all the time."


You can reach Amy Donaldson by e-mail at ADonald512@aol.com