NHLPA Blocks Realignment

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As a fan of the NHL’s proposed realignment, it’s tough for me to see that the NHLPA has blocked its implementation for the 2012-13 season.

Red Wings’ senior vice president Jimmy Devellano is “disgusted” by the move and the league has already moved to paint the NHLPA as the bad guys here via a statement.

“It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a Plan that an overwhelming majority of our Clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including Players,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. “We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the Plan with no success. Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format for next season.”

As someone who admittedly supports the PA over the league more often than not, I hate to see them do something that will make them take such a bad PR hit. That said, there’s an interesting line in that statement that deserves some extra look.

We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the Plan with no success.

That could be read two ways. The NHL wants us to think that the NHLPA making up concerns that can’t be invalidated. On the flip side, it could be that the PA’s concerns are entirely valid but that the NHL won’t give them the data they’re looking for because they know that.

From Puck Daddy, we have the NHLPA’s list of concerns.

  • The unbalanced conference format would make playoff qualification unfair.
  • Claims of lessened travel were not backed up by hard data.
  • The NHL did not take the NHLPA’s feedback into consideration.

The first one was something that many fans were also up in arms about. I don’t agree with it because I think it requires looking at the standings backwards. True, being in a conference with seven teams means you only have to beat three teams to make the playoffs, rather than beating four teams in an eight-team conference. That said, the goal is to win your conference. Failing that, you want to finish second. Failing that, third, then fourth, etc.

We measure our standings from the top, not from the bottom, that there are fewer teams that miss the playoffs in two conferences doesn’t mean finishing in the top four was any easier there. If it is easier to make the playoffs in one conference versus another, it’s just an issue we have already (as we saw with two Western Conference teams who would have made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference last season). The only 100% fair solution is a balanced schedule and a single-table playoff.

The second one I agree with the NHLPA on. While I like the idea of the Wings heading out West less and heading to Original Six markets out East more, we’ve seen no data to show that this would actually mean fewer miles travelled. We can’t know that until a schedule is drawn up, though. On one hand you have the PA saying they need data to give their approval, on the other you have the league saying they need approval to make the schedule that would provide the data. Seems like a hypothetical schedule could have been made but that’s easy to fudge one way or the other to get the numbers you want.

The third note is interesting to me. Looking at the proposed alignment, there are quirks that were clearly there to appease certain owners. The fact that Tampa Bay and Florida are in a division with the Northeastern teams only happened to ensure that the current Atlantic Division would stay together. This means that the Lightning and Panthers are subjected to brutal divisional travel (something this realignment was supposed to correct) in order to buy votes from other teams. This would be where the PA should step in, because the league is deciding some teams are more important than others.

So, overall, it might be the right move for the NHLPA to question realignment. It’s not going to do them any favors on the PR side of the coming labor war, though.

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Clark founded the site that would become DetroitHockey.Net in September of 1996 with no idea what it would lead to. He continues to write for the site and executes the site's design and development.

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