The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets may see their wishes to move east fulfilled if a realignment plan reported by the CBC's Hockey Night In Canada comes to fruition.
According to the report, discussions between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association produced a proposed realignment that is similar to the four-conference format that was rejected by the players last year. The union did not think that plan sufficiently addressed the travel discrepancy between teams in the current Western Conference and the Eastern Conference. The players also had concerns about uneven chances of making the playoffs between two eight-team conferences and two with seven teams.
Under the new proposal, the teams will again be grouped by time zones but Detroit and Columbus were moved to the more eastern conferences. There will still be two eight-team conferences and two seven-team conferences but the playoff inequity may be addressed by adding wild-card teams.
Detroit would join a conference with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. All of those teams are in the Eastern time zone, as are those in a second conference that the Blue Jackets would join.
However, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he has not heard anything from the league about this proposal. But he said the Red Wings have not changed their desire to head east.
"We want to be in the east and we did vote for the four-conference proposal and a midwest conference [last year]," Holland said. "But at the end of the day I don't know enough to comment."
Like the Red Wings, the Blue Jackets have never been happy about playing most of their games outside of the Eastern time zone. It means a lot of late starts to televised games which hurts their ratings.
"If this does indeed happen, I think it would be beneficial for us," Blue Jackets president John Davidson told USA Today.
Carolina; Columbus; New Jersey; New York Islanders; New York Rangers; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Washington
Boston; Buffalo; Detroit; Florida; Montreal; Ottawa; Tampa Bay; Toronto
Chicago; Colorado; Dallas; Minnesota; Nashville; St. Louis; Winnipeg
Anaheim; Calgary; Edmonton; Los Angeles; Phoenix; San Jose; Vancouver
MALKIN MAY HAVE CONCUSSION
The Pittsburgh Penguins downplayed a report Evgeni Malkin suffered concussion symptoms after he was pushed into the boards by Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers during a game Friday. However, Malkin did not practice Saturday and was unable to play in Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, citing multiple sources, reported Malkin suffered from severe headaches and mild disorientation, which was disputed by Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. According to the team's web site, Bylsma said Malkin is still being evaluated according to the NHL's concussion protocol but he did say a concussion has not been ruled out. "We're waiting to see how he feels and reacts. He went into the boards pretty darn hard. We're not expecting any timeline to the injury or anything," Bylsma said. Malkin hit the boards at full speed and lay on the ice for several minutes but managed to get to the dressing room under his own power.
HYBRID ICING NOT DEAD
When the American Hockey League decided to discontinue its trial of the hybrid icing rule last month, it might have given the impression the NHL decided against adopting it as a safety measure. However, Toronto Maple Leafs vice-president of hockey operations Dave Poulin thinks the rule has a chance of being revived at the March 21 NHL general managers' meetings. He said it's "a good rule" and was only dropped by the AHL because it and the NHL did not want players playing under two different rules, which might cause problems when they are promoted to the NHL. The hybrid icing call has been studied for several years now as a way to avoid the high-speed collisions that can result from the chase for the puck. It give the linesman the discretion to stop the play if he thinks the defending player will get to the puck first or it will be a tie by the time the puck reaches the faceoff dots. If he thinks the offensive player has a chance to reach the puck first the linesman can let play continue.