Posted on: December 8, 2011 12:15 pm
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Posted on: December 5, 2011 11:07 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 11:27 am
In one hour of the Board of Governors convening in Pebble Beach, Calif., the NHL changed radically. It actually reverted back to the way it used to be, just with a lot more teams (you can thank expansion).
So with all that said, here's our Winners and Losers of realignment. Let's get right to it.
They wanted more games within their time zone and fewer trips to the West. Mission accomplished. Now those two will be with teams in Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Nashville, Minnesota and Winnipeg. With only one visit to every non-conference arena, that means each team will only play four games in the Pacific time zone as opposed to the eight they currently play.
In that same vein, the Stars have to be thrilled with this plan. Considering they have been playing 11 games in the Pacific time zone, they now also cut that down to four games. These things will greatly help the fan bases watch more games and, in theory, more fan support.
"Everyone knew our position on this," GM Joe Nieuwendyk said. "We wanted out of the Pacific Division. This makes total sense for us."
Particularly the Washington Capitals. Under the original four-conference format, the Keystone State rivalry was broken up and the Capitals and Penguins were in separate divisions. Not under this. Now the Atlantic Division is staying completely intact and it's adding the Capitals (Carolina Hurricanes, too). Who doesn't want to continue to see six games a season between the Flyers and Penguins? Now we'll also get six between the Penguins and Capitals. The Caps will now get to rekindle all those old Patrick Division rivalries.
"We understood, particularly in the mid-Atlantic region, which rivalries were very heavily embedded," Gary Bettman said.
Now if you're a Devils fan living in Los Angeles, you are guaranteed you will get a chance to see New Jersey play in person every season without having to hop on a flight. The same can be said for all of those ...
All those people from the Northeast and Canada that have their parents living in Florida? This will be nice for them. There are obviously a lot of people who migrate south for the winter and they will get an extra visit to the teams in Florida. The local scribes will appreciate this, too. Many have already dubbed this the snowbird conference.
The Florida duo
Of the four votes that were against this realignment plan, it's a good bet that two of them came from the Panthers and Lightning. The two teams still have each other, but that's it. Now their closest division foes are in Buffalo and Boston. There will be a lot of long flights to Canada and New England.
But there are two bits of good news for the Florida teams. They will sell a few more tickets, albeit to opposing fans. The Maple Leafs, Canadiens and Bruins will be much bigger hits for them than the Hurricanes and Jets.
The other bit is more games in Canada for the players. At least it's good news to Panthers center Stephen Weiss. “We do a lot of travel anyway. I think that would probably make it even more,” Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. “But that's the nature of the beast. It's where we live, and you've got to do what you've got to do.”
The only potential speed bump in all of this? The NHLPA. It won't be fond of all the increased travelling, which there will be or pretty much everybody. With guaranteed trips to every arena, that's a few additional trips cross country. It will hit players at some point, travelling is already one of the worst parts of the job.
Yes, this format seems perfect for either two more or two fewer teams. And contrary to popular belief, contraction isn't likely to happen. So more expansion is possible. The same cities will be the candidates; Kansas City, Quebec City (if they don't get the Coyotes to move to them), Seattle, Las Vegas and Houston. Arenas are needed in most of those places -- K.C. has that part covered -- first, so it wouldn't be for a few years at least. But it could happen eventually. Andy Strickland of True Hockey says that is already being discussed.
Islanders, Devils and Hurricanes
OK, all isn't completely perfect for that Atlantic Division. These three teams are at a pretty big deficit when it comes to resources vs. the other teams in their division. It's going to be tough sledding for these teams to get into the playoffs with the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers and Capitals around. This is probably akin to the Group of Death that you always hear about in the soccer World Cup.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Expansion, Florida Panthers, Joe Nieuwendyk, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, NHLPA, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Realignment, Stephen Weiss, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals
Posted on: December 5, 2011 5:27 pm
The honeymoon for Brendan Shanahan is over, the grace period gone. Now he's beginning to feel some of the blow back that Colin Campbell put up for years.
Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty just finished serving a three-game suspension for an open-ice hit that left Penguins defenseman Kris Letang with a broken nose. He wasn't overly pleased with the punishment from the start, and now he is getting in a little war of the words with the discipline boss.
From the Canadian Press, Pacioretty insisted Monday that Shanahan compared the hit to the Cooke hit, something Pacioretty doesn't feel was fair.
“We didn't bring it up, [Shanahan] brought it up,” Pacioretty said. “You can ask my agent [Alec Schall]. He was on the phone. Ask the GM [Pierre Gauthier]. It happened.
“In the back of my mind it's a completely different hit. Savard's a lefty coming across. He has no idea Cooke's coming from the other side of the ice. I'm not trying to get into comparisons, but they [the NHL] compared it to that and we compared it to [Tampa Bay's Ryan] Malone on [Montreal's Chris] Campoli."
Hey Max, I don't see the problem in the NHL comparing it to the Cooke-Savard incident. After all, Cooke received no punishment (it's never too late for some Colie humor).
"Every hit's different. That's what makes this tough," Pacioretty acknowledged. "There is always going to be that grey area. They're doing the best they can to crack down, but it's not consistent.”
For what it's worth, Shanahan denied making a connection between the two hits in a radio interview. Although he didn't go so far as to say Pacioretty was intentionally lying, just that he was probably a bit emotional and took things the wrong way.
Welcome to the job where you can never please anybody, Shanny.
H/t to Pro Hockey Talk
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 4, 2011 12:11 pm
In the next few days, we might actually have some serious progression in the realignment talks. The Board of Governors are going to discuss that (among other things) in the next few days in Pebble Beach, Calif. ... assuming they can stay off the links.
Entering the meetings, there appeared to be two principle ideas at play in the realignment talks. The first was the simplest, moving Winnipeg to the West and putting Detroit in the Southeast, a one-way swap and that's it. Simple, clean-cut, but a bit messy when it's done. Teams in the West don't want to lose the Red Wings and they don't exactly seem to fit with the Southeast Division.
That led to a lot of people favoring a more "total realignment" in which the six-division format would be blown up in favor of a four-division look and balanced schedule. Heading into the meetings, this was considered to be the proposal for the four-division look. But the Penguins and Flyers weren'texactly on board with that one.
Now we have another idea floating, according to Elliote Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada. This one is the same concept as the previous four-conference (notice the change in language) look, it just moves the teams separately. Notice how the Flyers and Penguins stay together along with the New York-area, Atlantic Division teams while Washington and Carolina join them. That leaves the five Northeast Division teams to join the two remaining Southeast Division teams in Florida, the Panthers and Lightning.
What's interesting to notice is that, in continuing to view it as an East and a West, the West becomes the bigger "conference." The two divisions with eight teams would be made up by the teams already in the West and Winnipeg, the reason for the card shuffling.
There is only so much you can do with the teams in the East while trying to keep the ones smack dab in the middle, geographically speaking, together. It does seem a bit inconvenient to put the two teams from Florida with the Canadian and Northeast teams. They already travel a lot, this would probably only increase that.
But they might fit a little better than you would originally think. There are large snowbird populations in Florida during the hockey season, and having lived in South Florida for nine years, I can tell you a lot of them hail from Quebec. Try and get tickets the day before a Canadiens-Panthers game at the BankAtlantic Center. You can't (at least through traditional means), the game will be sold out.
So this now begins to look like a slam dunk, right? The Red Wings at least get their home-and-home series with every team in the league, the Stars get into a more time-zone friendly "conference" and the playoffs return to their old divisional format and there is flexibility for a possible move of the Coyotes. All is good, right?
Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that while they don't actually have a say in the matter, the NHL Players Association isn't fond of the plan. The reason? This will increase travelling for just about every team. That's one argument.
The other is the unfair nature of two divisions of eight and two divisions of seven. The teams in the seven-division format have greater odds to make the postseason. That's one reason why baseball recently flipped the Houston Astros to the American League West, to even out the odds of postseason play.
But something has to get done. No plan will sit well with every team involved, that's obvious. Remember, they just need to get a 2/3 majority among the BOG to push through a plan.
This one here seems as good as any. You could be looking at the future alignment of the NHL.
Posted on: December 2, 2011 5:15 pm
By: Adam Gretz
Late in the third period of Pittsburgh's 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, Penguins forward Matt Cooke was on the receiving end of what appeared to be an elbow to the face from defenseman John Carlson, which you can see in the above video. It was a play that initially went under the radar during the game, and Penguins fans were not happy about it after the fact.
There was no penalty called on the play, and Cooke, it appears, was uninjured as a result of the hit. It also seems that Carlson will not recieve any supplemental discipline from the NHL.
Here's what the league said in a statement sent to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"The Department of Player Safety's view is that, with barely enough time for one last rush, Carlson was desperate to join that rush. He doesn't even see Cooke coming toward him until the last minute (his view of Cooke is obscured by Ovechkin until the last moment) and he actually cringes to avoid contact if you can pause it when they're a couple of feet apart.Of course, one can't help but wonder what the NHL's response would have been had the shoe been on the other foot and it were Cooke delivering a similar hit on Carlson, or any other player.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, however, insisted that Cooke's reputation did not influence the NHL's decision.
More NHL Discipline News Here
(H/T Pensblog for the video)
Posted on: December 2, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 8:42 pm
It's tough to find a position in sports that lends itself to streakiness more than goaltender in hockey. For some reason, most of them fail to maintain an even balance throughout the course of a season -- Tim Thomas' consistently spectacular play notwithstanding. There season charts resemble roller coasters tumultuous enough to turn even the heartiest rider's stomach.
L.A. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick isn't immune to the turbulence. In the opening month of the season, Quick was absolutely phenomenal. He turned in three consecutive shutouts in mid-to-late October. For his work, he was given a day off on Oct. 25 and that good mojo seemed to vanish.
In his next seven starts and nine of 11, he surrendered at least three goals. Instead of being a large part of why they were winning early in the season, he became a large part of why they were losing. It was a quick reversal of fortunes, if you'll pardon the pun.
But like any streaker -- we're still talking goalies here -- he has reversed course again. Entering Saturday's matinee against the Montreal Canadiens, Quick comes in on a tear. Thanks to a shutout of the Sharks and a nearly flawless 41-save showing against the Panthers, Quick has stopped 74 of the last 75 shots he has seen. Go back a little further and he has actually saved 84 of the last 85 shots.
Here's what Pierre McGuire told an Ottawa radio station about how good Quick was in Thursday's win. "If the kings don't have Quick Florida wins that game. Kevin Dineen's team dominated with speed game".
Yes, he's back on his game. It really is no coincidence, then, that the Kings enter their game against the Habs having earned points in seven of their last 10 games.
They really need him to be the good Quick this season. The Kings have high hopes for this season. Many, myself included, saw them as legitimate threats in the Western Conference race this season. Despite the addition of Mike Richards to some other talented offensive players like Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, the Kings aren't going to do a whole lot of scoring. As of now, they are 24th in the league in goals per game with 2.32.
So much more than other goalies, when Quick is playing poorly it shows.
Assuming he'll get the start on Saturday, he'll have a chance to extend his already league-high shutout mark of four. The Canadiens haven't been very good this season, that's obvious. But moreover, they have really struggled on the road. You have to go back four weeks to Nov. 4 to find the last time the Habs won a road game in regulation.
In Kings terminology, that was near the beginning of the bad Quick days.
As a bonus for L.A., if the Kings are victorious, coach Terry Murray will have his 500th career victory.
The Bryz is back in town
When the Flyers visit Phoenix on Saturday Ilya Bryzgalov's arrival will be highly anticipated by the local crowd for the second time this season. Earlier this year he made his first trip to Winnipeg, a city he wasn't too fond of possibly moving to once upon a time. He didn't play in that game.
Now Bryzgalov returns to Phoenix, the city where he did play and left this past offseason. It was with the Coyotes that Bryz built up his reputation as one of the better goaltenders in the league before taking a bigger pay day with the Flyers.
This will be the second time Bryzgalov has faced his former team this season. Before the first meeting in Philadelphia, some of his former teammates had some less-than-kind things to say about Bryz. Derek Morris even admitted to being glad that Bryzgalov was gone.
Everybody knows the Coyotes don't draw a lot of butts to the seats. But this game should have a few more tickets purchases not only because of the abundance of Flyers fans who will be there -- rest assured, they will be -- but likely from a few of the Coyotes fans who just want to boo. Or thank Bryzgalov for his time there. Take your pick.
Welcome back, Bruce
We hardly forget ye.
Anaheim Ducks' coach Bruce Boudreau (looks weird) will make his debut with his new team on Friday with the Philadelphia Flyers in Southern California. One thing we know we'll see, at least to start the game, will be the reunion of Bobby Ryan with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on the top line.
In his final days as coach, Randy Carlyle had been trying to mix and match, trying to find the best results and cure the woes the lack of depth was causing his team. Boudreau, however, restored the top line to its old self and will try to make due.
Remember, when he arrived in Washington he didn't inherit a Caps team with a lot of depth. It was a very similar situation, actually, with some highly skilled forwards. They soared under his leadership. Will the same happen in Anaheim? We'll get the first glimpse on Friday when the Ducks host the Flyers.
Too bad HBO hasn't begun the 24/7 filming yet and depriving us a chance of more Boudreau, if only in a very small sampling.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
In this case, the ranch would be Washington, Boudreau's old stomping ground.
The Capitals enter the third game of the Dale Hunter era still searching for their first win. If the third time's the charm, it will have to come at the expense of the Ottawa Senators, who visit the Caps on Saturday.
They are badly in need of a win, for their confidence if nothing else. The Caps have lost four games in a row and seven of their last nine. They have fallen -- get this -- five points behind the Florida Panthers in the Southeast Division, and that's even with the Panthers leveling off in recent weeks.
There has been a whole lot of difference so far for Washington, but they do appear to be focusing more on defense again and the effort has appeared to be better. But right now they just need a win.
Still searching Part II
Carolina Hurricanes new coach Kirk Muller is in the same boat as Hunter, 0-2 in his NHL career behind the benches. His task, on paper at least, looks a bit tougher than Hunter's.
That's because the 'Canes will host the high-flying Penguins on Saturday night. Not exactly the team you want to see when trying to bust out of a slump.
It has to start with getting the defense squared away. In the Hurricanes' current five-game losing streak, they have given up at least three goals in each game. Tomas Kaberle isn't working out, that's no secret. But that's only part of the defensive woes. The unit continues to leave Cam Ward high and dry in net behind them.
Nobody told Muller this was going to be easy.
More to prove
The St. Louis Blues have been ridiculously good since Ken Hitchcock came aboard. They are 8-1-2 under his leadership.
But Hitchcock is still delaying his excitement for the team's play until their next stretch of games. Starting with the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, they will begin playing teams for a second time. That's when you can start to draw some conclusions.
"We're going to get a push," Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "You can surprise a team, but we're now playing a second wave. When we start playing the Chicago's and Detroit's again, now we'll have a look. They'll be ready for us. They won't be surprised by our game
What's shocking about it all is that by the end of the weekend, the Blues -- 14th in the West when Hitchcock was hired -- could be leading the Central Division. With their crisp and disciplined play, that's certainly a possibility.
We're going streaking!
New York Rangers: It took them a few games to get going at the beginning of the season, but when they got going, boy did they. John Tortorella heads back to Tampa Bay with the Rangers having won four in a row.
Blues: In addition to Saturday's game against Chicago, they play the Avalanche on Friday night. That's where they take their four-game win streak.
Detroit Red Wings: All this team does is streak. No seriously, look at their schedule. Like the Blues, they have two games over the weekend, Friday in Buffalo then Sunday at Colorado.
Canadiens: Already mentioned, the Habs go into Los Angeles on Saturday having lost four straight.
Capitals: See above: Caps have lost four in a row headed into Saturday date with Senators.
Hurricanes: Currently at five losses in a row, the Penguins visit next. Ouch.
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Anaheim Ducks, Anze Kopitar, Bobby Ryan, Brian Stubits, Bruce Boudreau, Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Perry, Dale Hunter, Derek Morris, Detroit Red Wings, Dustin Brown, Edmonton Oilers, HBO 24/7, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jason Chimera, Jonathan Quick, Ken Hitchcock, Kirk Muller, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Randy Carlyle, Ryan Getzlaf, St. Louis Blues, Terry Murray, Tomas Kaberle, Washington Capitals, Weekend Preview
Posted on: December 1, 2011 10:34 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 11:01 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The first time the Penguins and Capitals faced off this season, Pittsburgh's Arron Asham knocked out Jay Beagle in a fight and then celebrated on his way to the penalty box. Beagle has not played since, and it was inevitable that during their second meeting of the season on Thursday somebody on the Capitals would challenge Asham, and that's exactly what happened in the first period of the Penguins' 2-1 win, shortly after Pittsburgh's Craig Adams put his team on the board on a goal that was set up by Asham.
Asham squared off with Washington's John Erskine in a big league bout that saw a number of heavy punches land. Following the game Erskine said he wasn't trying to get revenge for Asham's fight with Beagle earlier this season, but simply trying to change the momentum in the game after Pittsburgh had taken the early lead.
Here's what it looked like:
And it was probably the highlight of the night for the Capitals.
Pittsburgh, playing without two of its top defensemen in Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek, and going with youngsters Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres (making his NHL debut), along with extended minutes from Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland, shut down the Capitals (still without their top defenseman, Mike Green) all night, especially in the third period as Washington attempted to tie the score in the closing minutes.
For the game, Washington recorded just 17 shots on goal (after registering just 19 in their first game under Dale Hunter) and only two in the third period. Alex Ovechkin registered just one shot on goal, and it was the only one he attempted all night.
Previously at Eye On Hockey
Asham Fights Beagle
Asham Expects Fireworks
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 6:55 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The NHL suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty for three games on Monday for his hit on Pittsburgh's Kris Letang during Saturday's 4-3 Penguins overtime win, which ended when Letang, of all people, scored the game-winner on a controversial play in front of the Montreal net.
On Tuesday, Pacioretty spoke to the media for the first time following the announcement and didn't seem to agree with Brendan Shanahan's decision, and also gave his version of what took place on the ice.
Pacioretty said that during his hearing, Shanahan compared the hit to one that Penguins forward Matt Cooke delivered on Boston's Marc Savard two years ago that eventually helped lead to the crackdown on hits where the head is the target and principal point of contact.
"I think that couldn't be further from the truth," said Pacioretty, via the Canadiens website (full video above). "If you look at the situation, me and Letang made eye contact and I think that's what gave me the green light to try and hit him. I felt he put himself in a vulnerable position. Maybe I shouldn't have even thought about hitting him because of the way the wind is blowing right now with head shots. I'd like to see a little bit of consistency. If the onus is on the hitter every single time I'd be fine with the suspension, but you've seen instances where they've placed the onus on the player receiving the hit as well. That's why I'm confused and a lot of other players are confused as well."
He also talked about how he felt Letang lowered his head prior to the hit, and that when he looks at the play in slow motion he can see that Letang changed his position as he saw Pacioretty coming. When asked if the suspension would change the way he plays and hits people, Pacioretty acknowledged that in the future he would not deliver that hit, and also added that since the start of the season he's been afraid to hit opposing players.
"This whole year I haven't had many hits," said Pacioretty. "Bbecause, I'll be completely honest, I've been scared to hit people out there. A lot of times you're going in on the forecheck and the defenseman turns his back to you, and things of that nature happen. It's a fast game and injuries are going to happen, and that's why it's tough out there, especially for someone who is expected to finish their hits. The blame is still on me. I made a bad decision and down the road I'm definitely not going to make that hit when someone is coming through the middle. Though, I don't see why I should give him free pass to come through our zone and get a free shot on net."
More NHL Discipline News Here