Dale Tallon, Craig Leipold, Jim Rutherford

Did Wild owner Craig Leipold spill the beans on new division alignment?

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The NHL’s plans to realign the divisions next year and go to a new layout for the way the league is set up is an issue that’s got a lot of fans imaginations captured. After all, with the wants of three teams to move east in Columbus, Detroit, and Nashville as well as the need to get Winnipeg out of the Southeast Division, sprucing things up makes a world of sense.Of course, it’ll be tricky for the NHL to get things together in a way that will make everyone happy and while the talk of doing a balanced schedule will help make things a bit more even, laying teams out geographically helps the divisional layout.

While no one at the NHL is tipping their hand as to how things will go, luckily Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold took to the airwaves today on KFAN in Minneapolis on the Paul Allen Show with Kevin Gorg and very well may have tipped off for how the new Central Division will be laid out and how some of these new things will play out. (audio here, skip to 21 minute mark)

“Our division would include the Winnipeg Jets, us, the Blues, the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets… maybe not depending on if they go east or west. I am all in favor of that. I think that is a grand slam, home run, hat trick for our team.”

With that kind of divisional lay out that means we’ll see the Detroit Red Wings somewhere else. We’ll also see them separated from the Blackhawks. The decision over whether or not to send Columbus to the East is also up in the air with this layout. Nashville too seems to be getting worked over as well. The one difference here being that, without Columbus, the entire division exists in the Central time zone.

“We’re all Central Division now. All of our teams, except for Columbus, all of our teams will be Central Division. We’ll play less teams in Canada. We will play every team home and away at least one time.”

There’s the confirmation on the balanced schedule. No longer will it be up to a few years between visits from some teams in other conferences. That set up makes a lot more sense because it means getting the guaranteed one visit a year for Western teams from the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Steve Stamkos among others. Bringing the big stars to all the fans only makes good business sense.

As for how Leipold feels about being aligned with Winnipeg, he couldn’t be more excited. Oh yeah, he’s pretty fired up about the old Norris Division tie-ins too. There’s also a bittersweet slip of the tongue too.

“Everybody’s talking about it. We’d love to have Winnipeg. It’s a natural rivalry for us. The closest team in the NHL [for us] is Winnipeg. We’d love to have them in that division. I think with Chicago and St. Louis the old North Star divi… I mean Norris Division. Come on… How much fun is that?”

Hey, North Star Division would sound great to us just so long as the other divisions were named after defunct teams. Let’s just make sure they’re named after teams that have no chance of being resurrected in the future. Sorry Nordiques Division.

Of course with the Central Division mostly figured out, where do the rest of the teams go? Well, the Pacific Division and Western Conference seems to have itself figured out already.

Potential Central Division
Chicago
Columbus*
Dallas
Minnesota
Nashville
St. Louis
Winnipeg

Potential Pacific Division
Anaheim
Calgary
Colorado
Edmonton
Los Angeles
Phoenix
San Jose
Vancouver

That’s 15 teams in the conference with one division having seven teams and the other with eight, fitting what we’d learned before. Columbus being the “maybe” team there means that perhaps there’s discussion on whether or not it’ll be Columbus or Detroit that stays in the Central. No disrespect to either Columbus or Detroit, but that Central Division has a lot more “oomph” to it with Detroit there.

If that layout stays that way, however, that leaves the Eastern Conference with Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Washington. Figuring out a way to lay that out in a geographically sound way will be tricky with Carolina and the Florida teams being outliers. Perhaps something that’s more map-friendly would work out. Here’s our silly suggestion that borrows a bit from the ACC:

Possible Atlantic Division
Boston
Florida
New Jersey
NY Islanders
NY Rangers
Philadelphia
Tampa Bay
Washington

Possible Mid-Atlantic Division
Buffalo
Carolina
Detroit
Montreal
Ottawa
Pittsburgh
Toronto

Our thinking here being that all the teams along the extreme east coast will all stick together and all the teams that find themselves a bit further out from the ocean can be piled up together. Mind you, this is a totally silly idea, but given the disproportionate difference between teams in the north and south the proposed idea to do a Northeast and South division might not work out.

All we know is that the Mid-Atlantic Division would be a bloodbath with the three Canadian teams, renewed Original Six wars with Detroit against Toronto and Montreal, and the Wings getting to play Pittsburgh more than a few times per year. Let that hate flow anew. Of course, if Detroit and Columbus swapped spots there, it’s still intriguing but potentially brutal for the Jackets.

We don’t know for sure that Leipold’s take on the Central Division is true and we won’t know until something is announced later on, but he sounded awfully convinced that this was how things would shake out and being that he’s an owner, he’s privy to that kind of information. Speculate away and see if you can come up with better ideas than these.

(Major thanks to PHT reader and commenter “whatagreatfootballmind” for the tip)

NHL on NBCSN: Avs take on Flyers in what could be Duchene’s last game with Colorado

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers host the Colorado Avalanche at 7:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

We’re just over a day away from the NHL trade deadline and the picture is becoming clearer when it comes to who the serious buyers are and who the serious sellers are.

When it comes to the Avalanche, there’s no doubt that they’re going to be looking to move veterans between now and Wednesday, but will the Flyers go in the same direction?

Philadelphia enters tonight’s game trailing the Maple Leafs by six points for the final Wild Card spot in the East. That’s not an insurmountable number of points, but they need to leap over four teams to get there, and let’s just say the Flyers aren’t exactly playing their best hockey right now.

They’re coming off a 4-2 loss to the Penguins in last Saturday’s outdoor game and they have just two wins in their last nine contests.

“Everybody’s a little frustrated right now, and we can’t be pointing fingers,” captain Claude Giroux said, per Philly.com. “Everybody needs to be a little bit better. Everybody needs to give a little more.

“We like our team. The locker room is great. It’s hard for me to tell you guys we like our team when the results aren’t there. But we like the way we play, and we like the way we play as a team, and I really think we can do great things.”

This will be Philadelphia’s final game before the deadline and you’d have to think GM Ron Hextall is leaning strongly towards selling, but would a win tonight change things?

With the amount of prospects they have coming through the pipeline and  with pending unrestricted free agents like Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto, Nick Schultz, Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth on the roster, there’s a good chance Hextall will look to move some bodies.

If there’s some doubt as to whether or not the Flyers will sell, there’s none when it comes to the Avalanche.

Colorado has put together a horrendous year, as they’ve accumulated just 17 wins and 37 points so far. Not many people expected them to be in the playoffs this year, but no one thought they’d be this bad either.

Like the Flyers, the Avs have some veterans they’d like to unload (Jarome Iginla, John Mitchell, Rene Bourque and Fedor Tyutin just to name a few), but it’s the names with term that are making headlines in Denver.

With time winding down before the deadline, will GM Joe Sakic be able to find a suitable offer for either Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog?

It appears unlikely that either of those guys will move before tomorrow. Those kind of trades are nearly impossible to make around deadline day. If another team is willing to pay the reported asking price of three to four young assets, including a defenseman that could slot into Colorado’s lineup right away, maybe we see it happen.

“I have no control over anything. Just whatever happens, happens,” Duchene said on Monday, per the Denver Post. “I don’t know what’s coming. But we’ll see. Obviously, I’m prepared for anything, but right now I’m just focusing on getting to Philly tonight and preparing for the game tomorrow.

“It’s hard to look past three days right now. I can’t really look past that because I just don’t know where I’m going to be. So we’ll see what happens.”

Things should get pretty interesting in Colorado over the next 30 hours.

Related:

Streit and Del Zotto could get Flyers something at deadline

Stadium Series loss to Pens could push Flyers to sell at deadline

Trade Rumblings: Isles interested in Matt Duchene

PHT Morning Skate: Winnik family explains what it’s like to be traded on deadline day

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–The Toronto Maple Leafs surprised some when they sacrificed a second round draft pick to acquire Brian Boyle from Tampa, but The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell believes it’s a good trade for them even if they fail to make the playoffs. (The Hockey News)

–Zach Dalpe was thrilled when he found out he had been claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets, but there’s a problem. The move isn’t ideal for him because he and his wife are expecting their first child any day now. “It’s our first kid. I take pride in being there when the baby is born, and she could pop any day now. When I told her the news today, it was pretty emotional. She wanted to come to Cleveland, but there’s no way she can travel. I told her we’re just going to have to weather this storm.” (Columbus Dispatch)

–If you think Brent Burns and Joe Thornton have impressive beards, you need to see this Capitals fan’s facial hair. His beard is so long, he’s able to spell out “CAPS” with it. You have to see it to believe it. (BarDown)

–On Monday night, the Minnesota Wild defeated the Los Angeles Kings in overtime thanks to this incredible goal by Mikael Granlund. You can watch his insane individual effort by clicking the video at the top of the page (you’re going to want to watch that more than once).

–CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty predicts the Boston Bruins will end their two-year playoff drought this season. Haggerty points to the team’s response to the hiring of Bruce Cassidy as the main reason why he sees them playing deeper into April. Haggerty writes: “Clearly they’re playing with more urgency, higher compete levels, and a consistent focus that wasn’t there in the first 55 games under Claude Julien. They’ve now scored first-period goals in nine straight games and scored first in each of the four games on the highly successful Western swing through San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas over the last week.” (CSN New England)

–Being traded is never easy, but if it happens to you often enough, you can learn to deal with it a little bit better. Just ask Capitals forward Daniel Winnik, who has been dealt on four different occasions. He and his wife Taylor were forced to move from Toronto to Washington at this time last year and it was total madness. “The first thing he did was go to our storage unit and grab all of the giant plastic bins we have for all of our stuff, and he just started jamming every kitchen supply you can imagine into these things. He kind of went crazy trying to get it done.” (Washington Post)

–Almost every team wants their general manager to add a piece or two via trade at this time of year, but not the Pittsburgh Penguins. They feel like they can win another Stanley Cup with the roster they have in place. The only thing Sidney Crosby wants to see them do is increase their desperation level. “I think as a group, we want to find another level,” Crosby said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. I think it’s a mindset. We’re getting there. As far as execution-wise, maybe we haven’t quite been there. But I think our desperation level is starting to climb a little bit. You see it kind of late in games and things like that.” (Pittsburgh Tribune)

Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

Misc.

Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

  • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
  • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
  • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

…. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.