Gary Bettman discusses realignment, labor talks

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made a visit to Anaheim today and the media gathered to discuss a variety of league-wide and local issues. The most interesting tidbits – at least regarding what Bettman would call “new news” – revolve around dealings with the NHLPA.

PHT’s own Matt Reitz was on hand to gather Bettman’s comments, including this bit on realignment:

“The most significant thing I can say about that is the governors were overwhelming in support of the plan,” Bettman said. “It’s something that we, as a league, thought was the right thing to do for our fans, for the team, for the game. But we made the decision based on the position that the union was taking to try not to be confrontational right now. Ultimately, our goal will be to be to implement the will of the board [of governors].”

For the most part, Bettman didn’t provide a whole lot of information about the negotiation process regarding the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. He did share an interesting little nugget about when the discussions could begin, though:

“Well, Don Fehr has repeatedly said that he wouldn’t be ready until after the All-Star [weekend],” Bettman said. “My guess is that at some point in the next few weeks, we’ll probably sit down—assuming the union is comfortable doing that. There’s a pretty steep learning curve in terms of the business from the union’s standpoint, what the players are focused on, and we’ve been respectful of that process. So whenever they’re ready, we’re ready. We’ve been ready.”

Speaking of readiness, Bettman spoke about what is likely the greatest fear of hockey people: another protracted work stoppage. When asked if the league “learned a lesson” after the lockout, Bettman’s response was logical but not necessarily soothing:

“I’m not sure it’s about learning lessons, because the lesson that everybody knows – and it’s not one you have to learn – is that you want to not have work stoppages,” Bettman said. “They’re not fun. They’re counter-productive. But if, if you’re in a situation as we were where there were fundamental problems that had to be addressed, you have to address the problems. Because you can’t live with a dysfunctional system.”

It’s not crazy to view that quote as a bit cryptic, especially if he views the current system as dysfunctional.

It’s tough to imagine the league taking that stand, but that doesn’t mean that a work stoppage is out of the question – especially with the aforementioned realignment talk in mind.

If you want to hear more from Bettman’s meeting with the press (expect more on Thursday morning), The OC Register’s Eric Stephens captured some of his full comments in the video below.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

It’s official: Red Wings’ playoff streak ends at 25 seasons

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When we look back at the 2016-17 season for the Detroit Red Wings, it will be remembered for some said endings.

It began without Pavel Datsyuk. We knew that their last game at Joe Louis Arena this season would be their last ever. And now we know that Joe Louis Arena won’t be home to another playoff run.

After 25 straight seasons of making the playoffs – quite often managing deep runs – the Red Wings were officially eliminated on Tuesday night. In getting this far, they enjoyed one of the greatest runs of longevity in NHL history:

Tonight revolves largely around East teams winning and teams clinching bids – the Edmonton Oilers could very well end the league’s longest playoff drought this evening – but this story is more solemn.

EA Sports tweeted out a great infographic:

“Right now it’s hard to talk about it, because you’re a big reason why it’s not continuing,” Henrik Zetterberg said in an NHL.com report absolutely worth your time.

Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena here: