|Donald Fehr and the NHLPA are expected to meet with the NHL soon to discuss realignment. (USPressWires)|
After the highly contentious negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, the NHL and NHLPA are about to go back to the board rooms to have discussions again. Instead of going back and forth about things like hockey-related revenue, realignment will be the key topic of the coming meetings. Hopefully, the two sides have learned to play nice since bringing the lockout to its merciful end.
According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, the two entities are expected to get back together within the next week to discuss the league's plans for realignment to go into effect for the 2013-14 season.
Last winter, with CBA negotiations looming, the NHL announced its plans for the league to be made up of four conferences -- two with seven teams and two with eight -- with the top four teams from each qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Only problem was the league neglected to run that by the NHLPA before making the announcement. The PA wouldn't sign off on it.
To refresh your memory, here are the four conferences the league proposed:
Conference A: Anaheim, Clagary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver
Conference B: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg
Conference C: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto
Conference D: Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Brooks that the league is currently working on a realignment plan, but nothing has been finalized or approved by the Board of Governors.
The circumstances under which these realignment discussions will be held are different from when the NHL made its announcement last year. With both sides at the table and the CBA negotiations firmly in the rearview mirror, there's reason to expect this to get done relatively painlessly.
The NHLPA, however, wants to be sure it has a strong voice in this discussion.
“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,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told the Post.
“And we had an issue with the fact that teams would either have a mathematical advantage or disadvantage of qualifying for the playoffs depending upon whether they'd be in a seven-team or eight-team conference.”
It appears the playoff structure proposed in the NHL's realignment plans last year could be a point of contention, if it hasn't changed.
“If they present the same type of four-conference structure but have the information for us to review regarding scheduling and travel, and have a different playoff format that can ameliorate our concerns in that area, we'll take it from there,” Fehr said.
So these negotiations probably aren't going to exactly be a walk in the park. The NHL's board of governors did pass last year's original realignment plan by at least a two-thirds majority, so there was quite a bit of support on the owners' side.
These realignment talks could show how the wounds left by the lockout have healed or who is still smarting. Either way, the discussions could play an important role in the NHL's long-term growth.