This feature is part of our bi-weekly look at the NHL, which appears every other Sunday on Page 2 of the print edition.
Whether you like it or not, realignment is coming to the NHL for the 2012-13 season. Winnipeg simply can’t exist in the Southeast Division.
Under the above proposal — it was revealed last Saturday on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” — teams would play a home-and-home against teams outside of their own division. The remainder would be played in division. The first two rounds of the playoffs, meanwhile, would be contested within each of the four divisions.
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman said the proposal is being weighed by Commissioner Gary Bettman and some teams believe there’s a “50-50” chance of it receiving approval (which, it should be noted, would require a thumbs-up from 20 of the NHL’s 30 teams at the league’s next board of governors meeting, Dec. 5-6.)
Not sure about you, but whenever I have a tough decision to make, the process begins with a list of pros and cons. I don't get a say, but here’s my list anyway:
For the teams
Pros: It will significantly reduce the travel strain on most clubs, particularly Dallas and Detroit, who have griped for years about travel inequities in the NHL. Players would also get more rest, reducing the dropoff in performance caused by weary legs and criss-crossing time zones.
Cons: While no plan will please absolutely everyone, this one especially stinks for the Penguins. Not only would Sidney Crosby and Co. get plucked out of the cozy Atlantic Division, they would get separated from Keystone state rival, the Flyers. Both the Penguins and Flyers oppose the plan, according to reports.
For the fans
Pros: The biggest winners might be supporters of the Blue Jackets, Red Wings and Predators, each of whom have a disproportionate number of late games. Columbus has 16 games starting after 8:30 p.m. locally, Detroit has 14 and Nashville has 12. Washington, by comparison, has eight.
Cons: Fans in Columbus might feel compelled to watch more Blue Jackets games, which could lead to a spike in depression. The new proposal would also mean only two Alex-Sid clashes each winter. Personally, I’ve always felt that four weren’t enough.
For the beat writers
Pros: Only one trip to Buffalo for local reporters. There’s only so many times you can go for the “suicidal” wings at the Anchor Bar or get stranded at Buffalo Niagara International by lake effect snow. As for my Edmonton brethren, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind trading St. Paul for Los Angeles and Anaheim.
Cons: For local reporters, only one trip to favorite Eastern Conference haunt Montreal instead of two. When I was on the beat, an early night on rue Sainte-Catherine came to its merciful end around 3 a.m., give or take an hour. California-based scribes, meantime, will be spending more time in Edmonton.
— Tarik El-Bashir's NHL power rankings for Nov. 4.