NHLPA "50-50" On Approving Realignment Proposal; Players Don't Like Playoff Imbalance
An NHLPA vote on whether or not to approve the league's latest realignment proposal is "50-50 at the moment," but the NHL "will push hard to get it through as is," according to Darren Dreger of TSN. Players "don't like [the] playoff imbalance" that would happen under the new plan, and believe the "easiest fix is to leave either" the Blue Jackets or Red Wings in the West. The NHLPA "hasn't completed full player rep review" (TWITTER.com, 2/28). Senators President Cyril Leeder on Thursday said that the new divisional playoff format "would help 'foster more rivalries' between the Senators and other teams not named Toronto." He said, "We’ve been in the league 20 years and we haven’t played Montreal or Boston in the playoffs. Whether you’re playing Detroit, Montreal, Toronto or Boston … we’d like to see more of that" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 3/1). Blue Jackets President Mike Priest on Wednesday said the team would "fully support" the proposal, which would move the club to the East. Priest said, "From a Blue Jackets perspective, playing the majority of our games in the Eastern time zone would be beneficial from a travel perspective ... and (for) our television and radio broadcasts" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/28). Devils RW Ilya Kovalchuk said, "Overall, with 16 teams on our side and 14 teams over there, I don't think that's how it should be. And then those wild cards and all that. I don't think it makes too much sense. Hockey should stay hockey. It doesn't have to be football" (NJ.com, 2/28).
WHAT'S LACKING: YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote the NHL's new proposal "did not fix a key problem the NHLPA had with the initial proposal" made in December '11. The league "just changed the look of it." The NHLPA "did not consent largely because the odds of making the playoffs were imbalanced." In an "eight-team conference, 50 percent would make it." In a "seven-team conference, 57 percent would make it." Red Wings D and player rep Niklas Kronwall said, "Everyone should have an equal chance of making the playoffs, and it’s tough when you have (conferences) with eight teams compared to (conferences) with seven teams. Mathematically, to me, that would be unfair." Cotsonika asked, "If the NHLPA would not consent to the initial proposal, why would it consent to this one? Just because it was consulted first, when it wasn’t last time?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28). But in Toronto, Dan Bilicki wrote the proposal "makes all the sense in the world." It makes "so much sense that you have to figure that a guy like" NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman or NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr would "blow it up out of spite." The real area where the NHL is "screwing this up is one that is probably an oversight to many: The division names." The league needs to "get back to its roots of naming divisions after the great men of the game of ice hockey" (TORONTOSUN.com, 2/27).
NOW IS NOT THE TIME: SI.com's Brian Cazeneuve noted the "most likely cities" to receive an NHL expansion team, "despite some interest from Seattle -- which may have been hurt by the Oilers' new arena deal" -- are all in the East. That may "require an Eastern club or two to shift again if the league expands or moves teams into new markets" (SI.com, 2/27). CBSSPORTS.com's Brian Stubits wrote there is "no perfect solution" to realignment, and that is "precisely why I don't understand why the NHL is doing this now." The overhaul seems "premature and unnecessary," not to mention "tough to do right." The league "doesn't want the Coyotes to move out of Phoenix." Stubits: "Why, as long as the potential for them to be moved to Quebec City or somewhere else exists, would they consider such a massive plan? It seems irresponsible" (CSBSPORTS.com, 2/27).