There’s so much buzz in the air about the Atlanta Thrashers and the possibility of whether or not they’ll move to Winnipeg and become part of the Western Conference. With that possibility in the air we asked you guys about who you’d like to see come to the Eastern Conference to replace them.
With the choices being between the Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, and Nashville Predators it was between the two eastern most teams in the Western Conference and a team that would blend in perfectly in the Southeast Division given their location in Tennessee. If nothing else, PHT readers are uniform in their approval of having things look appropriate when it comes to the divisional layout.
In an overwhelming vote with over 2,000 responses, 49% of you voted to have the Nashville Predators move to the Eastern Conference and fill the hole left by the Thrashers in the Southeast Division. There they’d form natural new rivalries with Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Florida as well as give the Washington Capitals fits six times a season.
One of the stranger twists is how the next most voted on team was Columbus. Either we’re not read by many Detroit fans or a lot of Red Wings fans are actually happier with their team being in the Western Conference. Our case for Columbus to go east was that it would give them a new lease on life as well as helping them generate loads of new rivalries with teams relatively nearby like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Toronto.
Whether or not we’ll actually see any of this happen at all is still in the air. Atlanta Spirit Group and True North are still negotiating a potential sale agreement and there’s talk that if the team does move to Winnipeg they may play a lame duck year in the Southeast Division anyway because they might not be able to realign in time for next season. We’re sure everyone in the division would be really excited about making three long trips to Winnipeg next season. There’s still a lot to get figured out yet, but if realignment does happen this offseason, we’ll be very curious to see how it goes.
Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.
Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.
(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)
While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.
Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:
The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”
Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.
This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.
More (transcribed from video):
“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’
“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”
The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.
It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.
Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.
All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.
One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.
John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.
More, from the League:
Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.
“John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”
Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.
“The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”
Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.
During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.
Columbus will have some reinforcements up front when it takes on the Devils tomorrow in New Jersey.
Brandon Dubinsky, who’s missed the last six games with an elbow injury, and Alexander Wennberg — who’s also missed the last six games, but with a foot ailment — have both been activated from injured reserve, and should be available for selection on Wednesday.
It wasn’t all good news for the Jackets, though. Defenseman Cody Goloubef and right wing Rene Bourque were placed on IR.
The biggest return for Columbus is Dubinsky, who had four goals and 11 points in 16 games prior to getting hurt, while averaging nearly 19 minutes per night.
That said, getting Wennberg back is key as well; the former first-round pick has been plagued by injuries recently but showed well during his rookie campaign in ’14-15, with 20 points in 68 games.