Tag:Mike Ilitch
Posted on: November 1, 2011 9:50 am

Pens, Flyers agree in opposing realignment idea

By Brian Stubits

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers actually agree on something. What's going to happen next, Don Cherry joining the anti-fighting crowd?

The two teams are united in their opposition of the realignment plan of the moment, Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Why are they against the proposed idea? It currently has the Keystone State rivals in separate divisions. They hate each other so much they just can't quit each other. Or something like that.

The Penguins declined comment, but team sources confirmed Monday a report Saturday by the Canadian Broadcast Corp. that the franchise is not happy with a realignment plan that would divide the NHL into four unbalanced divisions and thus separate Pennsylvania's two clubs.

The Flyers told the Delaware County Times that they support the Penguins' stance.

"We are in 100 percent agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins," said Flyers president Peter Luukko. "We are in close communication with them on this subject. This is a big rivalry that means a lot, not only to us as a franchise, but to our fans, their fans, and the entire state of Pennsylvania."

The realignment plan that appears to be gaining a lot of traction at the moment is commissioner Gary Bettman's idea for four divisions, two with eight, two with seven. Obviously the Jets will rightfully be moved to the West and then it becomes just a matter of either the Red Wings or the Blue Jackets going East.

Because part of that proposal calls for a home-and-home series against every team in the NHL with the rest of the games to be played within your division. So it's easy to see how the Flyers and Penguins would try to shoot this idea down now; playing each other only twice in a season? Wouldn’t be right.

Ironically enough, this same balanced schedule could be what sends the Blue Jackets to the East instead of Detroit. Wings owner Mike Ilitch has been very vocal about his desire for the Wings to fly East, but he has softened his stance a bit lately if he could get a guarantee for a home-and-home against every team. I think even Ilitch can see Columbus needs the move more. Detroit can stay in the West and nothing will change, it will continue to have one of the biggest fan bases in the game.

If this becomes the biggest point of contention against this plan getting approved. I wonder how willing they would be to alter a team or two in the divisional lineup. If it ends up being Detroit who goes East, it would seem to be simple enough to swap Detroit and Philadelphia in the lineups. It keeps the competitive balance nearly the same and the only drawback is Detroit gets stuck with teams further to the south and in a division opposite Toronto. But at this point, beggars can't really be choosers.

If Columbus is the lucky winner, it's a bit tougher to make things line up right. You have to keep traditional balance in line, among other things. Yes, organizations go through ups and downs and you can't guarantee who will be good and who won't, but you have a good idea what teams will be competitive more often than not, which markets traditionally yield a winner.

So my simple enough suggestion -- if this is the plan they truly want to use -- is to flip Washington and Pittsburgh. The downside for the Capitals is that they won't be in a division with Philadelphia or Pittsburgh (or New York). But really, the Caps haven't had a real rival since moving into the Southeast Division and while the Flyers, Penguins and Rangers are probably the best they have in the rivalry department.

Those are about the only ways I think they could appease the Pennsylvania teams and stay within the four-division format while keeping equal and roughly geographically responsible groupings. So have fun with that, commish.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting for that change of heart from Cherry.

Photo: CBC

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Posted on: September 30, 2011 10:57 am
Edited on: September 30, 2011 11:44 am

Wings owner Ilitch: Bettman promised move to East

By Brian Stubits

If the Detroit Red Wings aren't in the Eastern Conference next season, there is going to be one angry owner.

Ever since the Atlanta Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets and moved to Manitoba, realignment became an inevitability. And since the beginning of time (OK, the creation of the conferences), Detroit has wanted to be in the East. The long plane rides and late-night games that go past midnight back home aren't necessarily ideal.

Mike Ilitch, the Red Wings owner, has been incredibly vocal about his team's desire to move. Now he says he downright expects it because Gary Bettman promised him as much. In a Q&A with Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News, Ilitch explained the conversation.

Q. OK, once and for all, are you gonna get the Wings out of the Western Conference or not?
A. The commissioner (Gary Bettman) promised me I was next. We even had a meeting over lunch this past season, and he had all his people here, and he goes, 'Yeah, I promised Mike he'd be the next one to go in the Eastern Conference.' So I expect to be in next year. Jimmy D (Devellano) is on the phone every other week reminding them.

(By the way, Ilitch also said they are working on a new arena to replace the Joe, saying "we're going to have a new arena.")

My guess is that might have been a case of Ilitch hearing what he wanted to hear. It's certainly possible that Bettman made such a promise to him, but I'm not ready to go all-in on that being correct. What's more, no matter if Bettman promises it, it still has to be approved by a 2/3 majority of the board of governors. Now whatever Bettman and crew say usually goes, but it's still not a guarantee.

Remember, there will be a lot of opposition to the Red Wings from the teams in the West. No team in the conference draws as well as Detroit on the road. When you start talking money, people get a little more serious, and defensive.

The more I think about Detroit joining the East, the more I begin to believe they might just tear up the current format of six divisions. There's no real way Detroit slides seamlessly into the East. Do they just replace Atlanta in the Southeast? Doesn't seem right. Maybe you move Pittsburgh to the Southeast, Detroit to the Atlantic? I can't imagine Pittsburgh would like being broken up with the Flyers, Rangers, Devils and Islanders one bit.

Instead, if Ilitch is under the right belief and the Wings are flying East, I think you'd see a scenario where they bring a team, likely the Columbus Blue Jackets, with them. You then have the destruction of six division, instead having four. The only thing is that leaves you with two divisions of eight and two with seven, but with a return to the balanced schedule, it helps things.

Photo: Getty Images

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com