First I want to thank the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors for giving me this topic of conversation, because last night’s Rangers-Leaves game was pretty dull and not worthy of much of a review.
So I’m going to do this in two parts. First, a quick review of the game. Second, a few questions for what I see as a needless, senseless, change to the entire league and its playoff system.
1) The Rangers were not very physical in the first half of this game, and that allowed the Leaves to use their speed. You could say that speed teams have given the Rangers problems (Leaves twice, Canadiens, Panthers). But the Rangers have handled some speedy teams, too. I don’t think speed itself was the problem, but the way the Rangers allowed the Leaves to use it was.
2) I’m assuming Michael Sauer has a concussion, or at least, that he’s being treated as if he may have a concussion. I don’t think he reinjured his shoulder. And by the way, I know that helmets don’t always prevent concussions, that often it’s the brain rattling inside the skull that does the damage. But I’ve complained about this from the beginning of time. Why does the league not insist on players wearing better chinstraps, and wearing them tight to their, you know, chins? Helmets shouldn’t pop off like that.
3) The Dion Phaneuf hit was clean and devastating, and people say his start to this season has just been remarkably good.
4) Before that, though, this was a game with not much anger — even if Brandon Prust tried to manufacture some — and the Rangers generally aren’t good in those games.
5) Brad Richards sure does some clever stuff on the PP.
OK, now a few questions … I probably could come up with several dozen … about this realignment plan — if you haven’t seen it, it includes four conferences, currently named A, B, C, D, with the top four teams in each “conference” making the playoffs, then having their own first two rounds (a la the old Patrick Division semifinals, Patrick Division finals). Scroll down a few threads to see the alignment plan. Or go to NHL.com to see the plan and how the commissioner defends it.
It all makes no sense to me whatsoever because:
1) The NHL finally had a playoff system that worked just fine, and by the way, provided one of the greatest all-time playoff years just last spring. It developed conference rivalries, not just division rivalries, because of the conference format in the playoffs and because regular-season conference games bore as much weight as division games.
2) There will undoubtedly be, probably almost every year, a weaker third- or fourth-place team in the playoffs from one “conference” and a stronger fifth- or sixth-place team out of the playoffs from another “conference.” Then who wants to hear the crying?
3) They’d better come up with better names than A, B, C and D. Maybe Patrick, Adams, Smythe, and Norris?
First and foremost, is this whole freakin’ overhaul of the entire NHL caused by Atlanta’s inability, for a second time, to support an NHL franchise? Should we be surprised by this? Would we be doing this if the Trashers hadn’t moved to Winnipeg? Do you really throw the whole freakin’ league into a blender because of that?
So who plays in the third round of the playoffs. I mean, if it isn’t simply East-West as it has been for so long, is it always A vs. B and C vs. D in what used to be the conference finals? Or will the team with the best record of the final four play the team with the worst? Or what?
Does NBC Sports (soon to be formerly Versus) really want fewer games that mean something? Because that’s what it will get. It used to be every game among the 15 teams in the conference had a bearing on the playoffs. Now it will be every game among the seven or eight teams in a conference. That’s certainly not good for network TV.
Do Florida and Tampa Bay really belong in a conference with teams in the northern-most Northeast and Canada, instead of teams in Carolina and D.C.?
Isn’t this plan going to mean a lot more travel across the board? And isn’t that going to cost the teams a lot more money? And are those teams going to be crying poverty when the next CBA war breaks out? Aren’t the Coyotes and Islanders and so many other teams already in debt? So now they’re going to have smaller chance to make the playoffs on top of that?
How is it better for the Rangers, for example, to play more games against Columbus, Dallas and Phoenix and fewer against Boston, Montreal and Toronto? And that the games against the BJs, Stars and Yotes mean just as much, or as little, as those against the B’s, Habs and Leaves?
And who wants to be in the Crosby-Ovechkin NHL Darling Conference? In other words, the conference with two other playoff berths available?
Imagine how great the all-star game will be, with the added incentive of bragging rights when A-B meets C-D.
And why the hell couldn’t they call them divisions instead of conferences? That might be the dumbest part of this whole asinine plan.
Who conceived this idea, and how did they get it past the league’s GMs and Governors? Was there alcohol involved?
My Three Rangers Stars:
1) Artem Anisimov.
2) Brandon Prust.
3) Ruslan Fedotenko.
AP photos, above.