After this afternoon’s practice at BankAtlantic Center, reporters got a chance to interview players, coaches and others about the NHL’s realignment plan that was announced Monday night.
Here’s what they said:
On Caps: “I think it’s great for Washington. You get those old rivalries back. For a lot of teams it helps out with travel. I’m sure Florida and Tampa are upset about it. But I know those teams draw well with Montreal and Toronto snowbirds coming down.”
On the need to realign: “Something needed to be done to help out Dallas, Detroit and Columbus.”
On the new playoff format in which the top four teams from each conference advance to the postseason, giving an edge to clubs in seven team conferences: “It seems a little unusual. I thought they could have done some at-large bids. You want the best teams in there. You could have a [conference] one year where all seven teams are terrible. Then, in another [conference], there could be eight good teams and four don’t make the playoffs. That seems a little unfair.
“When you look at it now, there’s sometimes a team in one conference that has more points in the other conference that doesn’t make the playoffs. You’re going to have a lot more of that now.”
On the news: “It makes sense. I think the players are happy that we play everybody. That’s how it should be. It’s a league, a 30-team league. You need to face all 29 teams at least once, and now you’ve got them [at least] twice.
“Every city should have a chance to see Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and the other young stars every year. That’s a good thing for the fans and for the league.”
On the in-conference travel: “Travel-wise, it will be easier, closer to home. Travel is a huge part of our league and rest is a huge part of our league. If you can cut the travel factor down – and we travel pretty well – that’s beneficial, especially for players as they mature.”
Comcast SportsNet color analyst Craig Laughlin
On the Caps: “Personally, I love it. I’ve been wishing they went back to that for years. It’s not rivalries, it’s tradition. I think it’s great.”
On whether it will change team-building strategies: “How are you know going to build teams? If the Patrick Division becomes the Patrick Division of old, now all of a sudden, maybe [there will be an emphasis] on size, toughness, physical play, which we [had] in the 80’s. Whereas Edmonton and those guys were high-flying, free-wheeling teams. I’m not sure if that’s going to come into it. But it would seem that we have a tradition against those teams where there always seems to be a lot of physical play.”
Team president and governor Dick Patrick
Statement released by team: “We’re pleased with the NHL’s realignment proposition. The new layout gives fans the opportunity to see each team in the league and should rekindle some of the great rivalries.
“This new format will allow Caps fans to witness some of the best matchups in the league on a regular basis, and it will bring past rivals to the Verizon Center more frequently. From the feedback we have received, Caps fans are excited about the realignment.”
Coach Dale Hunter
On renewing rivalries with old Patrick Division foes: “It will create big rivalries. It will be the heat of the game. The players will have more animosity against the other guys. So when you play in the playoffs in the first two rounds, it’s really going to be back to the old style.”
On in-conference travel: “It's nice. Instead of getting home at 2 or 3 in the morning, you're getting home at 12 o'clock. Your flights – it's less time on the plane. If you have injuries, if you're in the air for too long they swell up. Just little things like that that a lot of people don't notice. Plus you don't have all those long trips as well where you're on the road for days. For us, at least you're close enough that you'll be home right away as soon as the trip is done.”
On playoff format: “You've got to win your conference before you move on. That's just going to make those rivalries a lot more heated. Six times – plus if you make the playoffs you're guaranteed to play them at least another four times, and then another team that's your rival another four times. I think you're going to see a lot more intensity in the rivalries, not just in our division but in other peoples' divisions as well. It makes for a lot more exciting hockey, and any guy will tell you that if there's more to the hockey game than just a hockey game that you're more excited to play it.”
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