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Pens Push: Realignment latest to go with updates on Crosby, Staal and Kennedy.

Some (late) quick hits from the Penguins’ practice Monday at Southpointe Iceoplex:

= Opening puck drop: Due apologies for the late file. Spent most of today chasing down some regional information regarding the hot-topic NHL realignment, a subject on which I’m writing from the Commonwealth’s perspective in Tuesday’s Trib. By now, no doubt, dear readers have heard the scuttlebutt/rumors, but for those who haven’t, please read this from a good friend, Elliotte Friedman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/opinion/2011/10/realignment-plus-30-thoughts.html

OK, so the general gist is there could be four unbalanced divisions starting next season, and there is a good chance the Penguins and Flyers – “Expansion Six” brethren and our Commonwealth’s two NHL clubs – won’t be playing more than twice each regular season.

Without giving too much away, I can report this: Penguins CEO David Morehouse is working tirelessly behind the scenes to assure the continuation of the region’s longstanding NHL rivalry. Some points he could make:

  • The Penguins and Flyers have never met fewer than four times in a regular season. To go any lower than that would considerably take away from one of the league’s true natural rivalries that happens to involve two markets that are thriving.
  • The Penguins have already agreed twice to move out of a division with the Flyers, when the joined the Norris division from 1974-81 and the Northeast from 1993-98. To request of them a hat trick seems a bit much.

In addition to gaining the ear of considerably influential high-ranking NHL officials, such as commissioner Gary Bettman and COO John Collins, the Penguins’ Morehouse, with his political background, is well educated in the art of bringing people over to his side of the aisle. He has a pretty powerful ally, too; as you can read in Tuesday’s Trib, the Flyers are completely against any realignment that would place them in a division without the Penguins.

 

= LWs Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz, Cs Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, and D Kris Letang all did not practice for the Penguins today. All but Staal seem a sure bet to play Thursday at San Jose, with coach Dan Bylsma offering this about Staal, who missed a loss at Toronto on Saturday with a lower-body injury:

“He’s still day-to-day,” Bylsma said. “He seems like he would be fine going forward, but we’ll see how that works out later in the week.”

 

= RW Tyler Kennedy (concussion) was at the rink today, playing with pucks before teammates took to the ice. He appeared to be in good spirits, but your guess is as good as mine regarding a timetable for his return.

“Some of the various symptoms for a concussion he’s had,” Bylsma said. “He has to be symptom free before he moves forward. Those symptoms are sometimes different each day. Sometimes they’re not there all day. So, it’s different for every day and every player sometime.”

 

= Speaking of concussions, C Sidney Crosby looked especially sharp in practice – roofing a few bad-angle shots at the end and skating with a considerably crisp stride in all drills. He won’t play on the West Coast trip, and here is what he had to say after his latest practice: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/s_764772.html

 

= The Penguins will practice again Tuesday, marking the first time since the regular season opened they’ve had the opportunity to hold a regular practice on consecutive days.

“We get some time to work on some detail and habit in our game that we don’t necessarily have,” Bylsma said. “Some of those details you’ll see in our next two practices. Some of it’ll have to do with systematically. Some of it will be net-front presence or a stick-on-puck drill. Today was (about) speed and pace, getting up and down the ice, a little bit of conditioning work. The next two days will be particularly detail-oriented.”

 

Cheers, and Happy Halloween,

Rossi

Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

Comments

  1. Dan says:

    Read the realignment article. My first thought… Why is Dallas complaining? If they wanted easier travel, they should have stayed in Minnesota – one of the best hockey markets. Not the NHL’s fault they moved to a city 1000+ miles away from the next hockey town…

    Would be ridiculous to move Philly and Pittsburgh away from each other. Also, I’d love to see Columbus in the Eastern conference, moreso than Detroit. Would be a great rivalry for the Pens and close enough to travel to their place and watch the games!

  2. sjb says:

    Amazing how the Pens would get the short end of the stick all because the Thrashers, who couldn’t sell tickets in ATL, were sold and moved to Winnipuke. For this team that no one cared about, that moves to a town no one obviously cared about back when they originally had a team, the rest of the league gets put through a blender.

    Good going NHL, I can’t wait for 15 years from now when the Jets again move to Vegas or wherever so they can screw with the alignments again…all for one bottom feeder team.

    How about this, wait a few years to find out if hockey will even be profitable in that tinyier than Scanton town before scambling all the other eggs. If the Pens and Flyers don’t agree to the move then the NHL has no right forcing them to. After all these two teams actually mean something to the league and it’s fans, which can’t be said for the Winnithepoo Thrashers.

  3. espo33 says:

    I don’t think they would get the short end of the stick when it comes to the division. They will add Columbus, Buf, Ott, Mon, Bos, Tor which would still have intense games and might actually be better for us going against those teams.

    They should wait to see what happens to the NYI and if they are getting a new arena. That place is a dump and the gov has vetoed every attempt on any type of deal for them. If it was the NYR they would pass it. I would take that team and go elsewhere.

    I would also see about FLA that doesn’t draw well either. Miami is not a hockey market. It is not even a baseball market. People would rather do other things then going to these sporting events.

  4. Justin says:

    The talk about rivalries is overrated. If this new division begins next year, in 3 years the Pens-Bruins, Pens-Montreal, and potentially Pens-Red Wings would be as potent a

  5. Justin says:

    The talk about rivalries is overrated. If this new division begins next year, in 3 years the Pens-Bruins, Pens-Montreal, and potentially Pens-Red Wings would be as potent a “rivalry” as the current Pens-Flyers and Pens-Caps rivalries are today.

    Another point…..it took a few minutes of one game last year to make me despise the Islanders, and as they become more competitive this “rivalry” would have heated up as well.

    The reason that the Flyers want this rivalry to continue is revenue based. What owner wouldn’t want to have 3 home games with Sid and Geno in the building? Pens do not gain the same benefit with the Flyers (save for the first Jagr game this year).

  6. Lyca says:

    Not to mention, isn’t it highly likely that Phoenix will move sooner rather than later, too? At some point, doesn’t that team have to be taken off life support? Then what?

  7. This is mostly Canadian markets versus American markets, with the Canadians asserting their traditional dominance, but then, unless they compromise, they’ll lose more than they gain.

  8. Eric says:

    All they need to do is swap Winnipeg with Nashville. Winnipeg is close to those division teams. Nashville should be in the south with the other southern teams.
    This would be the most simple and unobtrusive minor change which would not effect anybody else.

  9. SAR says:

    to SJB… get your facts straight before you rant please. The Jets did not leave because there was no support. The Canadian dollar was at 60 cents; they were in an old barn, and it is one of the smallest markets in North America. Financially, they simply couldn’t surive anymore and relocated to Phoenix. Fan support has never been an issue in Winnipeg (btw… enough of the ‘winni-puke’ stuff, considering there are some choice words that rhyme with ‘pittsburgh’). The igloo wasn’t exactly selling out during the Milan Kraft or Rico Fata era(s) and on 2 occasions, the Pens were almost on their way out of town too.

    to James Thompson… I’m a diehard Pens fan living outside of Toronto. I’ve been a fan since Mario came into the league. I’ve been to a game at the Igloo and listened to ‘Yinzers’ moaning about all the Canadian fans who were making the washroom lineups so long (the Canadian digestive system rejects American ‘beer’ – what can I say). Direct your anger at the league, not Canadians. Remember where your hockey icons come from.

  10. Peter says:

    If the realignment goes to unbalanced 4 division system, do you really need to keep a balanced number of teams in each conference? In other words can you have 14 teams in one conference and 16 in the other? It seems to me that either way you have to have some imbalance in scheduling. So here’s my suggestion. Detroit and Columbus want to switch to the East. Winnipeg wants to go West. Nashville has said they don’t care. Add Columbus, Tampa and Florida to the existing Atlantic group. Add Detroit, Washington and Carolina to the existing Northeast group. This creates somewhat balanced travel between the two divisions by splitting up the Southern group. It also gets Detroit with Toronto, and Columbus with Pittsburgh and Philly.

  11. Jason says:

    @ Justin
    I doubt Jagr will be the reason for the sell out.

  12. JV says:

    The fans are the customers – we should have a say in what the realignment looks like. The NHL should create an online entry form like the March Madness bracket, and let the fan majority help determine the divisions. Then freeze the configuration, and reopen realignment discussions once every 5 years in the event that more teams relocate.

    Uneven divisions is a bad idea. The Winnipeg problem can be solved with only 4 moves:

    Jets to the Northwest
    Avalanche to the Pacific
    Stars to the Central
    Predators to the Southeast

  13. sjb says:

    SAR – Here’s some facts: Winnipeg is too small a market to realistically support an NHL team. Before this Thrashers move happened, every hockey analyst in Canada (and yes, even though I’m not in Canada like you, I listen to the CBC broadcasts) said it would be a bad move for financial reasons but they’re there anyway. It’s a nice thing for the community there and they are supporting the team well right now since it’s such a great thing to have them back, but if they don’t play enough winning hockey to generate a solid season ticket base, they’ll soon be back to where they were before and the scary thing is, they’re even a smaller market than they were the last time. The “barn” as you lie to call it, that they are playing in now, is still too small at 15,000 seats and minimum luxury boxes/premium seating and money generating amenities to make enough money. The Pens are doing well with the new arena and without it there would be no Pittsburgh Penguins. From what I hear, there is no plan for a new arena in Winnipeg, so how’s that going to work?

    Sorry if I upset you with the Winnipuke comment, I’m sure like Little Rock “it’s a fine town” but it’s exactly what I feel like doing if such a small market team can so dramatically affect the rest of the league.

    I’ve heard better realignment options that make more sense and require less of a disturbance of solid divisional rivalries.

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