Monday, January 9, 2012

Realignment: The Bigger Problem

It's probably fair to say that the majority of hockey fans were disappointed last Friday when the NHLPA threw out the realignment plans for next season.

While that definitely is disappointing, there's a bigger problem underlying all of this, and I'm sure it's already hit many hockey fans.

If you watch the CBC Hotstove on Hockey Night in Canada, their whole discussion this past Saturday was on realignment. Elliotte Friedman said it was refused 28-2, the two teams for it being Columbus and Detroit - the two teams that want and kind of really need a move.

And while this refusal is a setback, it really says so much more than that...

The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires this coming September. Eight months from now.

...I'll wait for you to stop spiraling from remembering what happened last time this took place.

I know, I know. We all thought this would come several more years down the road, even with the date set in stone. We thought things wouldn't be so up in the air, and it wouldn't be as hard as last time. Many of us spazzed when Donald Fehr was appointed, too; after all, baseball fans have a few choice words for him.

This realignment refusal business leaves a foreboding taste in my mouth. It feels like this is their way of showing that they're already playing hardball with the NHL. They shouldn't be taken lightly.

Then again, this could all be a total overreaction.

On the more positive front, their reasons for saying no to the realignment are fairly valid, and I can't fault them on it because you do have to look at it from every team's point of view, not just the Red Wings'.

The main problem Friedman said was the playoff format with two seven team and two eight team divisions, ultimately giving a better chance to some teams and not others. Likewise, travel was still an expense issue for nearly every team.

Don't think so? Think about how more often teams would have to cross the border into Canada, playing each team home and home every season. Sure, it works out better for teams like Detroit and Columbus having to only make one big western road trip rather than two or three, but what about the other twenty eight teams?

Okay, maybe you can't complain too much about it to those fans of the easternmost western conference teams, but it's still a big deal for the rest of the league. The NHLPA feels as though their concerns were not answered and this plan was kind of thrown together almost least the playoff format of it.

So what can be done. What will satisfy the NHLPA, NHL, and fans? Will there be an easy solution, or is it going to take months of pounding out every single little detail?

If I had the answer, we'd all be breathing a little easier. Because this realignment problem could just be the beginning of a long, long, long offseason.

And that's the last thing anyone wants.

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