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NHLPA wanted more answers before approving realignment

Jan 9, 2012, 8:14 PM EDT

Donald Fehr AP

When news broke that the NHLPA withheld its consent of the NHL’s radical realignment plan, it seemed stunning and many went into Chicken Little lockout mode. The more you think about, the more it seemed a little brazen that the league expected the players to almost blindly approve such a big change, though.

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr told Sportsnet.ca that the players association wanted more answers than the league seemed willing to give.

For one thing, they wanted more information about travel, but it seemed that the NHL didn’t go beyond vagaries.

“After some initial information transfers,” said Fehr, “it became clear that there would be increased travel but it was unclear as to how much and which clubs and we asked for some sample schedules and (the NHL) said those could not be provided.”

Taking that comment at face value, it’s surprising that the NHL wouldn’t give players a better idea about what new schedules would look like. Then again, maybe there was a concern that they would be held to such hypothetical examples once negotiation time came.

As you may have heard, the playoff setup (which involved four teams coming from each conference even though two conferences would include seven teams while two others would include eight) was a big sticking point. Players wanted to discuss that issue, but that door was closed as well, according to Fehr.

“The players wanted to talk to (the NHL) about the playoff issue,” Fehr said. “We didn’t intend to pre-judge what the results of those conversations would be. The commissioner’s office said they were not in the position to have those discussions and I fully respect that, they’re certainly entitled to take that view.”

It’s often tough to determine what’s truthful and what is just P.R. speak, but if Fehr’s telling the truth, then perhaps the NHL could have done more to inform everyone involved about what is honestly a dramatic change. Personally, I cannot totally blame the teams in the eight-team conferences from feeling slighted. In an age of the salary cap and the significant parity that comes with it, having to beat out three teams instead of four can be a big advantage.

Let’s face it, though; most of us are just taking the “Do what you have to do, but for the love of all that is sacred just don’t have another lockout!” stance. Still, if you’re the type to take sides, the mood might be shifting ever so slightly toward the players’ side.

  1. Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Jan 9, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    Donald Fehr is a rat bastard.

  2. murtdurt - Jan 9, 2012 at 11:10 PM

    So is the hobbit commish and his troll daly. Good for the players and fehr. As an east coast fan living out west I don’t need to see the rangers, flyers and penguins every year out here. The added travel on those teams Isn’t worth it. It shouldn’t be those clubs problem that buildings like Phoenix’s can’t sell out without those teams in town.

  3. greatminnesotasportsmind - Jan 10, 2012 at 12:44 AM

    scheduling isn’t that hard.
    Since Minnesota is basically in the middle geographically (and i live there) we’ll use them

    play a few games at home vs division (chi, cbj, dal, det)
    play a few games out west (phx, ana, la, and sj)
    play a few games at home (fla, tb, car, wash)
    play a few games at divison (cbj, chi, det, stl, cbj)
    play a few games at home (cbj, dal, det, nash, stl)
    play a few games out west (cal, edm, van, and col)
    play a few games at home vs division (stl, wpg, nash, chi, cbj)
    play a few games in the south (fla, tb, car, wash, nash*)
    play a few games at home (phx, ana, la, col, sj)
    All-Star Break
    play a few games out east (tor, ott, mon, buf, bos)
    play a few games at home (cal, edm, van, col)
    play a few games at division (nash, dal, stl, cbj)
    play a few games at home (nj, nyr, nyi, phi, pit)
    play a few games at division (chi, det, wpg)
    TRADE DEADLINE
    play a few games at home (tor, ott, mon, buf, bos)
    play a few games out east (nj, nyr, nyi, phi, pit)
    play a few games at divison (chi, nash, dal, wpg)
    play a few games at home (cbj, dal, det, nash, stl)
    play a few games at divison (dal, wpg)
    play a few games at home (dal, det, stl, wpg, chi)

    IT’S NOT BRAIN SURGERY!!!!!

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:24 AM

      it’s impossible for the Wild to not play their first road game in the central time zone before December 13th. But hey screw the fans, who the hell cares about them?

  4. greatminnesotasportsmind - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:02 AM

    The playoff setup isn’t that hard either using the current standings

    Vancouver 55
    San Jose 50
    Colorado 47
    Los Angeles 47
    ———————
    Phoenix 45
    Calgary 43
    Edmonton 35
    Anaheim 30

    Vancouver has home ice over Los Angeles
    San Jose has home ice over Colorado
    winners meet for conference A championship
    only 2 teams are out right now

    Detroit 53
    St. Louis 53
    Chicago 53
    Nashville 48
    ————————–
    Minnesota 48
    Dallas 47
    Winnipeg 45
    Columbus 27

    Detroit has home ice over Nashville
    St. Louis has home ice over Chicago
    winners meet for conference B championship
    only 1 team is out right now

    Conference A Champions plays Conference B Champions for Campbell Bowl Trophy

    Boston 53
    Ottawa 50
    Florida 50
    Toronto 47
    ——————–
    Montreal 39
    Buffalo 41
    Tampa Bay 37

    Carolina 35
    New Jersey 48
    Islanders 34
    Rangers 56
    Philadelphia 52
    Pittsburgh 46
    Washington 44

  5. greatminnesotasportsmind - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    Boston 53
    Ottawa 50
    Florida 50
    Toronto 47
    ——————–
    Buffalo 41
    Montreal 39
    Tampa Bay 37

    Boston has home ice over Toronto
    Ottawa has home ice over Florida
    winners play for conference C championship

    Rangers 56
    Philadelphia 52
    New Jersey 48
    Pittsburgh 46
    ————————————–
    Washington 44
    Carolina 35
    Islanders 34

    Rangers have home ice over Pittsburgh
    Philadelphia have home ice over New Jersey
    winners play for conference D champions

    Conference C champions plays Conference D champions for Prince of Whales Trophy

    Conference A/B winner plays Conference C/D winner for Stanley Cup.

  6. greatminnesotasportsmind - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    Playoffs:
    Western conference

    Dallas and Minnesota would be out of the playoffs
    Los Angeles and Colorado would be in

    Right now 3 teams have no chance at the playoffs (Edmonton, Anaheim, and Columbus) and it’s the same with the new format.

    Right now Conference A has 4 teams fighting for 2 spots seperated by 4 points
    Current format has 7 teams fighting for 3 spots seperated by 5 points

    Right now Conference B has 3 teams fighting for the top 2 (home ice spots) and 4 teams fighting for 1 spot seperated by 3 points.

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    same 8 teams would be in the playoffs with the new format as they are now

    Right now 4 teams would have no chance at playoffs (Montreal, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Islanders) and they don’t under the current system.

    Conference C has 3 teams fighting for home ice sepeated by 3 points and 3 teams fighting for 1 home ice spot by 3 points.

    Conference D has 2 teams seperated by 4 points for home ice thoughout, and 3 teams fighting for 2 spots seperated by 4 points.

    This new realignement that was shot down doesn’t change the playoffs much. If anything adds more excitiment to the new conferences.

    Teams develop rivalries by playing in close divional races. What better than Boston, Florida, Ottawa, and Toronto fighting each other for home ice in the first round in the regular season and then having to beat 2 of them in the playoffs just to get to play another conference winner.

  7. ballistictrajectory - Jan 10, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Chess match aside, the NHLPA is right to ask questions, and the league could be more transparent over this. The AHL has had this model for some time. It sports 8 v 7 divisions in the two conferences. The playoffs allow for divisional cross-over, based on points, within the conference. The league offer is exactly the same as what’s going on the the AHL.

    If I were playing for the Abbotsford Heat I’d expect to spend a LOT of time on planes, trains, buses, hotels, customs, etc. Just to play within the division. THREE of the division opponents are in Texas. Abbotsford is SE of Vancouver and on the US border with Canada. Conversely, the Springfield Falcons are a short bus ride from their entire division and do not need to schedule as much hotel time, remote practice ice, etc. The players are essentially “home” much more often. This is both a cost and comfort issue.

    A player starting a family will more likely prefer to play in the division where he can be home more often. Players that are “posted” in far flung outposts scattered across the empire will feel penalized. Owners and management will also feel penalized as their operating costs can be significantly higher, resulting in budget and salary problems (read: Phoenix).

    I personally prefer a balanced league. If that means add or subtract two teams to fit the 4×7 format or make it 4×8. Geographic alignment makes sense, but it doesn not resolve the problem with the separation of teams on the Pacific Coast. It’s absolutely impossible to uproot teams that have now served their markets well of upwards of 40 years, but some communities seem to want that. I would not have a problem with the league redistricting if it also solved the problem of density that the league has west of the Mississippi.

    The fact remains, the financial and operational model for this change is readily available to players and management. I’m willing to lay odds that 40% (read: not taking bets) of today’s NHL players have played under the AHL’s current system, so it isn’t a big leap for them. If there is going to be a Fuffle Grande over this then both sides had better figure plans A & B.

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