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Readers share thoughts on #NHL realignment.

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We asked, and a good many of you answered. Dear readers chime on in the NHL’s proposed realignment to a four-conference format:

= Al DeMarchi (North Huntingdon)

“What I do not like: Columbus is the only eastern time zone team in Conference B – so that does not fix (its) issue. It makes little sense to have Florida and Tampa in with Montreal and Ottawa – that seems like it was done to appease the Flyers and Penguins.

“What I like: No more East and West Conferences.  If Phoenix moves to Quebec, (it) can easily slide in to Conference C.

“What I love: The top four in each conference play each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs.  That’s how rivalries are established.  While it will be difficult for the Penguins, playing the Flyers, Rangers, and/or Caps in the playoffs would be fantastic hockey, at least in the near term.  Then it makes the six meetings during the season a little more relevant and intense.”

Rossi says: Columbus, seemingly, is one of the bigger losers in this proposal. Then again, there isn’t an easy fix for that market. The Blue Jackets have wasted a promising start as a franchise by failing to ice competitive teams for most of the last five years. Win and they’ll come in Ohio State Country, but there has been very little winning. Also, a few more games against the Penguins, Flyers and Maple Leafs would help.

= Rich Johnston (Atlanta)

“I Tweeted something to this extent earlier.  I’m impressed by the amount of juice it appears that the Penguins have as an organization.  To get a seven team division with the entire current Atlantic division plus Washington and Carolina seems like a win-win if we assume that some form of realignment was definitely going to happen. The Northeast plus Florida teams division looks like a last ditch effort to appease Pit/Phi/Was, which is nice to see from a fan perspective, especially since getting to Raleigh is a reasonable way to see the Pens play.”

Rossi says: My hunch is that Trib columnist Dejan Kovacevic will touch on this more in his Wednesday column. Fine work by Dejan on the late developments Monday from the BOG meetings, by the way.

= Scott Inman (New Brighton)

“I like the proposal for the most part.  Getting to see teams like LA, VAN, and SJ every year at home will be pretty cool to see.  If they do add expansion teams, how about the Erie Antelopes? I’d be an instant fan.”

Rossi says: If an NHL team improbably is delivered to Erie, former Penguin and current Ranger Mike Rupp would probably have to be named the club’s captain.

= April Catherine (Pittsburgh)

“Obviously there are some things to like as the Pens fared pretty well. They have the easiest travel, kept Atlantic Division rivalries while adding the Caps, and added somewhat of a bottom-feeder in Carolina. That said I’ll miss seeing Eastern conference non-division opponents four times a year such as Boston, Buffalo, and Montreal.

“But for me the real problems concern the playoffs. First off this very quickly cools off the excitement of season-ending playoff races. Also some teams with higher point totals respective to others may be left out because they’re in a highly contested division. For the Penguins and the expanded Atlantic I’m very confident in predicting that for the next several years there will be very little parity in the teams that advance. That means the Pens, Flyers, Rangers, and Caps (battling) it out every single year. I personally like to see parity in playoff opponents so that’s my biggest complaint.

Beyond the division, reseeding is curious for two reasons: All East or all West finals, and also the debate similar in the NBA that reseeding continually puts low seeds at a disadvantage. If a No. 4 upsets No. 1 and 2/3 in division should they be matched against the new No. 1 again in “conference finals” or benefit from a fixed system?”

Rossi says: Indeed, the Penguins couldn’t have asked for a better set up, though as an organization they favored a simpler plan that kept the two conference format intact. I doubt the new playoff format will cool the excitement of playoff races at season’s end. Just think of how competitive games will be if only a few points separate the fourth, fifth and sixth teams in a conference. I wonder if the NHL will backload its schedule with conference games, as the NFL does with division games. That would be the way I’d do it to maximize late-season compelling story lines.

= Curtis Schmiedebusch (Troy, Ohio)

“The realignment is great for Pens in terms of travel in rivalries, but the “conference” (semifinals) will not be the matchups that the NHL would like to see. The first two rounds will be extremely exciting, however I believe the (semifinals) will not have the great matchups such as Pens/Flyers – Pens/Caps.”

Rossi says: If there is one potential drawback for this proposal , at least as it regards the playoffs, it would seemingly be that the semifinal round of the postseason could prove less intriguing after two rounds of heated conference series. That said, once a team gets within eight wins of the Cup it seems there will be a lot of interest on the part of that club, and thus so should fans keep up their interest.

= Alycia Tenuta (Toronto)

“As a huge Pens fan, I think the new realignment is great. Whenever Pens play the Flyers, Rangers, and Capitals, it makes for great hockey. I’m sorry but no one wants to watch a boring hockey game. Did anyone enjoy watching the Flyers/Lightning game where they all stood still and waited for one team to make the first move…no. So it’s great to be a Pens fan. Devils, Islanders, Hurricanes fan…not so much. “

Rossi says: It will be really great for ideally-named Lemieux Conference writers that get to visit Carolina and the NHL’s best media meal more often – not that we need more caloric intake, in general.

=Matt Revtai (Robinson)

“Simple solution was to switch the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets. However NHL was trying to satisfy too many teams, including an original six team that you have to keep happy. That (commissioner Gary) Bettman promised he would move them to the east at first chance.”

Rossi: The question to consider is what were the benefits of staying the course with a slight change compared to dramatically altering the landscape with this proposed format? This format, think of it what you will, does level the competitive field for travel, and as Penguins D Matt Niskanen said Monday, perhaps for free agents who otherwise wouldn’t have considered Western teams because of the travel. Also, I’ll presume you are talking about Detroit, because you are with that Original Six reference. Here is my thought on the Red Wings – they have played under difficult travel circumstances for years while filling the often most empty buildings of Western foes, and they are the model franchise for this NHL over the past two decades. For the commissioner to grant them a big break with realignment is not inappropriate, if that was the implication.

Thanks for the thoughts, even the many we could not get to in this post.

Cheers,

Rossi

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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.

 
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