PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 19: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals battles for the puck against Brooks Orpik #44 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 19, 2013 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

Caps GM downplays additional challenges from realignment


For years the Washington Capitals have played in the often poorly regarded Southeast Division. That’s about to change and there will be little debate about the quality of their competition going into the 2013-14 campaign.

They are entering a division with the rising New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes on top of the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and New Jersey Devils.

Still, Capitals GM George McPhee argued that it won’t be any harder to make the playoffs.

“It’s always difficult,” McPhee told CSN Washington. “It’s as difficult as it can be to make the playoffs. As I said before it’s no small feat to make the playoffs in this league anymore.

“It’s a real good league and the [salary] cap levels the playing field. The real difference now in making the playoffs is managing your coaching and getting the right players. You could this year, but this is the last year you can outspend teams. Some teams were at $70 to $75 million this year. We were $60 million. Going forward it’s level.”

McPhee doesn’t see his team making any roster changes specifically designed to accommodate the change in competition.

“I remember when I first came here [in 1997] we talked about [Eric] Lindros in Philadelphia and how we’d have to get someone to match up with him because if we’d meet in the playoffs it would be an advantage for them if we didn’t have someone. Well, we never met in the playoffs for 10 years,” McPhee said. “So why bother?

“I just try to focus on our club and what we need to really be a complete team and a good team.”

The Capitals certainly looked impressive down the stretch this year and they gave the Rangers a run for their money in the first round. At the same time, they were 15-3-0 against the Southeast Division in 2013 and 12-15-3 outside of it. It’s doubtful that they will have that kind of winning percentage against their new rivals.

Will realignment end Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry?

Chicago Blackhawks v Detroit Red Wings

Tonight’s game between Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings is well underway, but it could very well be the end to what has been a fierce rivalry between the two Central Division teams.

The NHL’s new alignment, which will be implemented for the beginning of next season, will move the Detroit Red Wings to the new-look Eastern Conference. The Blackhawks will remain in the West.

Under a breakdown of the new alignment, the Blackhawks and Red Wings will play each other twice next season – once at home, once on the road. But will it ever be the same?

“I don’t mind the new realignment that the league decided to go with,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp told MLive.com. “But the one thing that does suck is not playing the Red Wings a number of times. I think the fans will always appreciate the rivalry and when we do see them it will be a special time.

“I like going to Detroit and playing in their building and I like it when they come here. They’re fun games to play in. Sometimes, when you play a team six or eight times, that builds rivalries. Sometimes, it kills them. You see the same faces over and over.

“Seeing those guys once or twice a year, the fans will be fired up for that game.”

PHT Morning Skate: Where we look at realignment

Realignment map

PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Has New Jersey Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg turned a corner? (The Bergen Record)

A number of hyped rookies like Chris Kreider, Sven Baertschi, Mikael Granlund are back in the minors, but it might be better for them in the long run. (Calgary Sun)

Enforcer Matt Kassian might make his Ottawa Senators debut on Saturday. Ottawa acquired him from Minnesota on Tuesday. (Ottawa Citizen)

With the realignment plan official, the Chicago Blackhawks will be losing the Detroit Red Wings as a division rival, but they’ll enjoy home-and-home series against their fellow Original Six members every season. (CSN Chicago)

The Nashville Predators will also lose the Red Wings as a division rival, but they voted in favor of this plan. Predators COO Jeff Cogen pointed out that the Predators will gain the Minnesota Wild as a division rival, which will make for plenty of Ryan Suter vs Shea Weber matches. (The Tennessean)

Meanwhile we can think of at least one team that should be very, very happy that the realignment plan is official. (Winnipeg Sun)

If the Edmonton Oilers are going to make the playoffs, it will be by doing a better job at home. (Edmonton Sun)

What has been holding the Detroit Red Wings back this season? (Detroit Free Press)