When it comes to the latest realignment proposal by the NHL, we already know Ilya Kovalchuk isn’t much of a fan, but you can add the Tampa Bay Lightning to that list as well.
General manager Steve Yzerman tells Erik Erlendsson of The Tampa Tribune that he doesn’t like the hassle the latest solution puts his team through when it comes to travel and competition.
“And logistically if it gets done the way it appears to be proposed certainly having four original six teams in our division is something I think our fanbase would appreciate . . . but again the traveling crossing the border and flying above Carolina and Washington to play teams in our own division those are things that we don’t like about it for our organization.”
In case you forgot, Tampa Bay and Florida would be the outliers in a new division with Detroit, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Montreal, and Boston. Having to deal with customs and border crossings is a pain, but a kind of necessary one in the hockey world.
If I were Tampa Bay, or more accurately Florida, I’d be more worried about visiting fans trying to take over my home arena each time. There’s no shortage of fans of those teams on the road.
Now that the NHL and NHLPA have put the labor stuff behind them for the next 8-10 years, they’ve got a new project to tackle.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports the two sides are discussing realignment once again and this time they’re going to make sure everyone’s on the same page. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly tells Brooks they are working on a realignment plan for next season but nothing has been approved or finalized by the Board of Governors.
NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr hopes the union’s fears over extended travel for some teams as well as competitive balance worries can be allayed by being kept abreast of what the NHL wants to do.
“We expect to talk with the league on the subject this week,” Fehr said. “A year ago, when we raised the issue of increased travel for teams, the league did not have mock schedules for us to review that might have alleviated our concern.”
After going through a labor war, getting realignment figured out should be a relative walk in the park. If the league wants to stick to their “four conferences” plan and a return to divisional playoffs, however, the competitive balance issue will be tough to wrangle with 30 teams. It wouldn’t be a shock to see expansion discussed to alleviate that issue.
Last week there was talk about the Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets swapping places in a potential shortened season. Now that the lockout is over and we will have either a 48 or 50-game season, fans in those cities will be happy (or wildly disappointed) to know nothing will change.
Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press reports there will be no realignment this season, but they do expect to see plans for realignment reactivated for the 2013-14 season. This just means the potential travel reprieve both the Jets and Jackets would’ve gotten from trading places won’t happen this year.
If realignment talk is real and we will see something happen during the offseason, there are a lot of moves that could be made. The NHL tried to make realignment happen during last season, but saw that shut down by the players’ association.