GM's To Discuss Rule Changes This Week

Written by Darren S. on .



Being an NHL GM isn’t such a bad gig, well that is if your team is winning and looking like they’ll still be playing hockey in a couple of weeks. But even if your name is Scott Howson, you get to spend a couple of days in sunny Florida talking hockey and probably playing some golf. Not a bad gig if you can get it!! The GM”s are in Florida this week to discuss some possible rule changes during their semi-annual meeting. Rules changes always worry me.

Here are some of the things they’ll be discussing and some of my thoughts on those things they’ll be discussing.

  • No Touch Icing – I’ve seen some GM’s say they don’t think it would affect the speed of the game but raise player safety by a large amount. There is part of me that agrees and a part that disagrees. The part that agrees looks at the icings that happen when a lone defenseman goes back and touches the puck, so in that case, no touch icing wouldn’t slow anything down but then there are those exciting races for the puck that wouldn’t happen. For instance in one of the Devils games over the weekend, Ilya Kovalchuk flew down the ice to touch the puck to negate what could have been an important icing against NJ. How many injuries happen on icings? I can’t recall the last time I saw one. You want player safety, focus on the hardness of the pads ramming guys in the head.

  • Removal of the trapezoid – This is what I call the Marty Brodeur rule and I bet you don’t see the trapezoid disappear until Marty is retired. Then and only then will it be gone. Part of me is kidding but part of me isn’t. Never understood to rule and why the NHL felt the need to handicap any goalie with the ability to go play the puck. Stupidest rule to ever find its way into the game. Should have been removed years ago.

  • Reinstatement of the “Red Line” and “2-Line Passing” -  Dale Tallon, among others, wants to discuss reinstalling the red line and two-line pass infractions as measures to counter player speed in the neutral zone. Putting this back in place would be the dumbest thing they could do. It speeds up the game and makes for some great breakaways. Leave it alone. You want to slow down the speed Dale, invest in some quality D-men.

Those are the big things I’ve seen in articles written about the meetings this week. They’ll also be talking about equipment, ways to minimize concussions, goalie interference and the use of using video review, changing OT formats a bit and of course there will be talk about the CBA which is something that we need to pay close attention to. We can’t afford more time off.

It should be an interesting week and let’s hope that we don’t go making too many changes because the NHL is doing just fine in my eyes.

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Let's Talk Realignment

Written by Darren S. on .

The NHL's Board of Governors approved a radical realignment plan Monday night. This new realignment would see the NHL shift away from the conference format back towards the divisional format we’ve missed so much.

So what will they be? I haven’t heard anything about how they will be named but this is the layout we are looking at.

A) Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers

B) Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators

C) Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs

D) New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes

Notice, there are two divisions with eight teams and two divisions with 7 teams.

So how does this all work?

Teams would play six games against conference foes (three home, three away) and two games (one home, one away) against out of conference opponents each year. Fans have long argued that they should have the opportunity to see every team in their own building once a year and with this realignment, we will get just that.

The top four teams in each division will make the playoffs where #1 plays #4 and #2 plays #3. When a winner emerges from each division, the four remaining teams will be re-seeded based on total points, or something that has to still be worked out by the general managers. The two remaining teams would then play each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. So it is very possible to see some bizarre matchups for the cup, like Vancouver/Chicago or New York/ Montreal or Detroit/Colorado (wouldn’t that have been something in the late 90’s!!)

So a few thoughts…

The playoffs become much more regionalized and we are pretty much guaranteed that games in the first two rounds will be nasty rival games since we play our own division. While we could meet the Flyers and the Rangers in the same playoff year under the current system, it rarely happens but will be a very good possibility under the new system.

I hope that the NHL goes the whole distance with this and brings back  Smythe, Norris, Patrick and Adams for the names of the divisions and hopefully we end up back in the Patrick Division.

Call me a homer but I see Division D, the one that the Devils have been placed in as the hardest division in the league. No one can argue that the Rangers, Flyers, Penguins and Capitals are going to be stiff competition for one of the 4 spots that get to play in the postseason but let’s not forget about the Hurricanes who have put together some good seasons as well. And yes, I am taking a big dump on the Islanders, well because they are the Islanders and haven’t really been relevant in a long time. Not to say they couldn’t turn it around but Garth Snow could possibly be the worst GM in the league.

Sorry, I’ve digressed.

Try to find a tougher division and make your argument but Division D is a very tough division to play in.

The one thing I don’t like about the realignment is that some interesting matchups we see now will only happen twice a season. Montreal/New York, Philly/Boston and Colorado/Detroit come to mind right away.

I know the NHL is saying every team in every building but I am missing something when I break out the old calculator. 6 other teams in our division x 6 games each = 36 games. 8 teams in Division A & B x 2 games per team = 32 games. 7 teams in Division C x 2 games per team = 14 games. Add all that together and we get 82 games but if you do the math for a team in an 8 team division, we end up with 86 games needed.

It looks as if Division C or Division D, most likely C, is setup to add Quebec once the Coyotes move out from the desert.

All in all I am in favor of this. I never really understood why we moved away from this type of format to begin with. So what do you think? Do you like it? Do you think we consistently miss the playoffs and watch New York, Washington, Pittsburgh and Philly compete in our division come the post-season? Would you go back to the old naming scheme?

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Devils Prospect Alexander Vasyunov and Former Devils Defenseman Karel Rachunek Among Those Killed in Plane Crash

Written by Debra Harrington on .



As Darren posted earlier, there was tragic news out of Russia today when it was reported that a plane carrying members of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl KHL hockey team crashed into the Volga River shortly after take-off from Yaroslavl, Russia (about 150 miles northeast of Moscow). Only 2 of the 45 people aboard the flight survived. The plane was flying to Minsk, Belarus, where the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team was to play their season opener against Dinamo Minsk on Thursday. The cause of the crash is unknown.

Devils prospect Alexander Vasyunov and former Devils defenseman Karel Rachunek were among those who died in the plane crash. Vasyunov was one of the many Devils prospects who were called up from Albany to fill vacancies on the Devils’ roster during the 2010-2011 season. He played 18 NHL games for the Devils. Rachunek played in 47 games for the Devils during the 2007-2008 season.

Also among those killed were former NHLers Pavol Demitra, Ruslan Salei and Brad McCrimmon. Forward Alexander Galimov and a crew member are the two survivors, and both are reportedly in critical condition with severe burns. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the family members and friends of those who have been affected by this tragedy.

 

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KHL Plane Crash Claims Many Lives

Written by Darren S. on .

A plane crash near the city of Yaroslavl in Central Russia has claimed the lives of at least 43 people, according to Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry. The majority of victims are believed to be members of the Kontinental Hockey League club, Lokomotiv.

The names that might have been and the names that are coming out that were on the plane is absolutely devastating. The team's head coach, Brad McCrimmon, played in the NHL and most recently served as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings before taking the Yaroslavl job in May. Defensemen Karel Rachunek, Ruslan Salei and Karlis Skrastins, as well as forwards Pavol Demitra and Josef Vasicek all spent a good deal of time in the NHL. Forward Alexander Vasyunov played a handful of games with the New Jersey Devils this past season. Vasyunov has been confirmed to have lost his live in the plane crash.

This offseason has been full of devastating news for NHL and former NHL Players. My heart, my prayers and my thoughts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. The hockey community is a small community and a tragedy like this certainly rocks the foundation of the game we've come to love.



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NHL’s Possible Realignment for the 2012-2013 Season

Written by Debra Harrington on .

If you take a close look at the Devils’ 2011-2012 regular season game schedule, you will notice that the Devils face the Winnipeg Jets four times, the same number of times they face Southeast Division teams. (You can check out the Devils' schedule here). That’s because, with the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg (read Darren's post regarding the sale here), the Winnipeg Jets have taken over the Thrashers’ spot in the Eastern Conference – this, despite the fact that Winnipeg is located in Western Canada and 1229 miles from Newark. Obviously, this will not only increase total travel time for all Eastern Conference teams, but it will mean crazy amounts of travel for the Jets, as well. While it’s too late to correct this for the upcoming season, the NHL’s Board of Governors has already discussed the situation and is, reportedly, close to agreeing on a solution.

The solution will probably come in the form of a realignment of the entire league. This will most likely happen by moving either Nashville, Columbus or Detroit to the Eastern Conference and then dividing each conference into two divisions – one consisting of eight teams and one consisting of seven. According to Rich Chere on NJ.com, the divisions could look like this:

 

Eastern Conference

 

Division A

Boston

Montreal

Ottawa

Rangers

Islanders

Devils

Toronto

Buffalo

 

Division B

Pittsburgh

Columbus/Nashville/Detroit

Philadelphia

Washington

Tampa Bay

Florida

Carolina

 

Western Conference

 

Division C

Columbus/Nashville/Detroit

Columbus/Nashville/Detroit

St. Louis

Chicago

Minnesota

Winnipeg

Dallas

 

Division D

San Jose

Los Angeles

Anaheim

Vancouver

Calgary

Edmonton

Colorado

Phoenix

 

I have to say that, at first glance, I’m not loving the new configuration that much. If the above-mentioned divisions become reality, this would obviously mean that the number of games between the Devils and both the Flyers and the Penguins would decrease since those two teams would be in a different division than the Devils.  This could seriously put a damper on the current rivalries that exist between the Devils and these teams.  I also think it would provide the Flyers and the Penguins with a somewhat easier schedule than what they’ve been accustomed to playing. I’m not trying to insult any teams here because you never know how any team is going to play in any given year (this past Devils’ season has certainly taught us that), but, historically speaking, Southeast Division teams as a group don’t exactly rack up the points in comparison to Atlantic and Northeast Division teams. Other than Washington, maybe Tampa Bay and hit or miss with Carolina, there really aren’t any other teams in that division that could pose real competition for the Flyers and Penguins - except each other and especially if Columbus is moved into the Eastern Conference.

I’m just not sure what the problem would be with moving one of those three Western Conference teams (Columbus, Detroit or Nashville) into the Eastern Conference and leaving it at that. Isn’t Nashville actually located in the South? In my opinion, the Predators could slide seamlessly over into Atlanta’s vacated place and everything else could remain pleasantly “status quo”. If anyone else has any insights or other ideas, please enlighten me in the comments below.




FUN FACT:

The Devils play the Jets in Winnipeg on December 3rd and January 14th. Travis Zajac is a Winnipeg native, and the game on December 3rd will be the first time he will play an NHL game in his hometown.

 

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The 2010/2011 NHL Season

Written by Darren S. on .



The day after the Stanley Cup gets skated around an arena, I always feel the need to kind of look back at the season that just was. The playoffs and the season are a distant memory and this is the point where every team in the league now focuses on the task at hand, which is being the team to skate that cup next June.

Last September had so much hope and promise for Devils fans. Arnott was back in town and ready to reignite Patrik Elias and there was so much anticipation about the Kovalchuk/Zajac/Parise combination. The Devils were supposed to set the world on fire (not in the same way that the Canucks set the city on fire last night) and John MacLean, who once led the Devils on the ice was now supposed to do it from behind the bench. The signings of Volchenkov and Tallinder were supposed to give the Devils defense a look that we hadn’t seen since Stevens and Niedermayer patrolled the blue line.

When the puck dropped on the 2010/2011 season, the ZIP line as it was being called came out blazing but then all of the sudden, the Dallas Stars crawled their way into the game and eventually took the game in OT. The Devils would continue losing games and start to lose players to injuries and it was extremely obvious to everyone that an NHL team can’t really compete when you have a short bench, as was the case with the Devils who carried 18 skaters early in the season. In a few short weeks, the Devils would learn of an injury that would sideline Zach Parise for the rest of the season.

Truthfully, the beginning of the season is a blur because all I can remember is that the Devils were playing bad hockey. The puck never bounced are way and while there were moments of good hockey, like a 5-2 win against SJ and a 5-0 shutout against the Caps, those moments were few are far between. Before I knew it, it was a few days before Christmas, the Devils were a dismal 9-22-2 and MacLean was shown the door.

When Lemaire came back, I wasn’t overly thrilled as this was the guy who quit on them immediately after a disappointing show in Round 1 against the Flyers last spring. I always felt like, and still do that if he had just taken time to himself in June, July and August, maybe he would have been ready to finish his contract and we wouldn’t have wasted 33 games to begin the season because let’s be honest, when you throw away 33 games, you really can’t be successful.

Eventually though Lemaire had us believing that the playoffs were possible. It was such a huge hole to climb out of but the Devils really made the effort and Lemaire really proved to everyone that the problem with the NJ Devils from October to January really was the man behind the bench, which really proves the point I made in the paragraph above. If Lemaire would have stayed, what could have been this season?

As for the playoffs, it was a weird feeling not having the Devils in it. They’ve been in the postseason for so long and most Devils fans aren’t used to them not being there. When you talk hockey, the 2011 postseason was exciting, even for us Devils fans. You had a number of matchups featuring rivals, a number of series go the full length finished off by a very good series and matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals. I congratulate the Boston Bruins on their championship and I am certainly happy for Claude Julien., who I always felt that the Devils organization didn’t give much of a chance when we he was fired with a few games remaining in the 2006/2007 season. After the whole Rome/Horton incident, I didn’t know how the Bruins would respond and whether or not the Bruins could replace his offensive contributions. I do look at this Bruins team like I looked at the ’95 Devils. Both teams didn’t really have many superstars but had guys with superstar potential. Both teams were led by one man, Claude Lemieux then, Tim Thomas now and both teams succeeded because there were guys you didn’t expect to step up but did.

I’ll be honest; I am a little sour on the Vancouver Canucks, fair or not. I don’t think they carried themselves very well on and off the ice. Their play in my opinion was dirty, they came across as a bunch of whiny cry-babies and they were constantly trying to embellish situations to gain a call. The fans weren’t much better than their team. I’ll hate on Gary Betteman as much as the next guy but to boo so loudly that you can’t hear what he was saying during the cup presentation and to throw bottles and cups on the ice in his direction isn’t what makes this sport great. Then to take to the streets of your own city and burn and destroy things, you’ve left a mark that is big, black and ugly and this is what non-hockey fans will remember.

Again, congratulations to the Boston Bruins for a championship that was a long time coming and while this little fact doesn’t mean anything at all, at least I can say the Devils ended the 2010/2011 season by beating the eventual Stanley Cup Champions.

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Game 7 - This One Is For The Cup

Written by Darren S. on .



It doesn't matter what team you root for. Look at us, our team hasn't played meaningful hockey in god knows how long but as a hockey fan, which we are, you can't help but be excited for Game 7 of the Stanly Cup Finals. This is it, the one game that matters. We get to see the cup tonight. Now, I can't speak for Debra, but myself, I am pulling for Boston, as I have been all spring (go back to my post when the playoffs started!!)

Our father who art in Boston. Hockey be thy name. Thy will be done. The cup will be won. On ice, as well as in the stands. Give us this day our hockey sticks. And forgive us our penalties, as we forgive those who cross-check against us, Lead us not into elimination. But deliver us to victory. In the name of the fans, Lord Stanley, and in the name of the Bruins. Amen.



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Thoughts on the Rome/Horton Hit

Written by Darren S. on .

As I watched Nathan Horton lying on the ice, eyes rolling into the back of his head, my initial reaction was that Rome hit him high and that the hit was extremely late. After a million replays, I didn't really change my mind on my initial reaction. Sadly, I feel this is just another example of players not having respect for each other on the ice. Sure, Nathan Horton did something wrong but Aaron Rome DIDN'T have to drill him into the ice. You want to hit Horton, put the shoulder into his chest, not up high. Horton, like many other before him, paid a price for admiring a pass he made. He didn't make the pass an immediately look up ice. His head was down, he didn't see Rome coming and we know the result. When we start playing this game, its drilled into our heads NOT to do what Horton did last night but at the same time, it should be drilled into our heads NOT to do what Rome did.

The funny thing is that whenever we see hits like this, especially in the post-season, somehow Scott Steven's name always seems to come up. Yes, he played the game like a linebacker. Yes, he injured a number of people and yes, I truly believe that he would have probably been victim to Rule 48 a few times as there is video of Stevens issuing a lateral side hit where the head/chin seems to be the target. If this blog had existed while Stevens played the game, I don't doubt that I would have thrown the "respect of other players" around at him as well BUT the fact is, Stevens doesn't play now, the NHL was a different back then so when guys like Matt Cooke or Aaron Rome put a guy into a stretcher, don't bring up Steven's name into the conversation because Stevens was never the type of player that broke the rules with his hits. Had Rule 48 existed, Stevens would have followed the rules, I truly believe that. Despite all the punishing hit, how many elbowing Penalties did Stevens get in his career? FOUR!!

An observation from last nights game that I would love the Devils to put into their game plan was the hitting. I've mentioned this a few times in various post-season posts and discussions. The Devils are a team that doesn't hit much. Surprisingly Vancouver and Boston weren't really those kind of teams either this season (Ranking 20 and 21 in total hits last season, where NJ ranked 28th) but I have no doubt that the way Boston punished Vancouver against the boards last night opened up oppurtunities for their offense to put in some goals. If the Devils would become a little more aggressive in the hitting department, I do believe it would allow the offense to generate some chances. I got on them during the season that they didn't hit enough and hope that whoever comes in to coach this team, brings along a more aggresive approach to the hitting aspect of the New Jersey Devils.

 

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The Winnipeg What??

Written by Darren S. on .



Pending an approval vote by the NHL’s Board of Governors on June 21, the new owners of the Atlanta Thrashers will move the team north, WAY NORTH to Winnipeg. Atlanta has become the first city in the NHL's modern era to lose two hockey teams. Interestingly enough, both Atlanta teams have relocated to cities in Canada.

I'll be honest, I feel bad for the Thrashers fans out there. Sure, they've never been considered a good team, they lost one of their young prospects in a car accident which caused another young prospect to ask for a trade out of Atlanta. Marion Hossa eventually got his wish and was shipped out of town and Ilya Kovalchuk turned down a very large contract and also was eventually shipped out of town. Hockey and Atlanta really never took off. Look at the names that have once played in an Atlanta Thrashers uniform. Dany Heatley, Marion Hossa, Marc Savard, Ilya Kovalchuk, Kari Lehton, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd to name a few. The problem hasn't been the players on the team, the problem has always been management. The Thrashers have never had an owner and a GM operating on the same page and at the end of the day, it is the city of Atlanta and its fans that loses.

Look at the Tampa Bay Lightning. They've finally gotten an owner and a GM working together and they've turned that team around quickly. Every team in the NHL can learn from the Lightning. In a salary cap era, the guys who run the team are critical to the success of that team. Yes it takes the right players but it takes the right owner allowing his GM to make moves and having his coaches back who in turn is allowed to get the best out of his players. It is not a complicated cycle to understand, yet it never happened in Atlanta.

Like I said, I feel bad for the fans of Atlanta. They've lost their hockey team and in my opinion, they did so for some pretty bad reasons. Winnipeg can celebrate as it looks like they are getting a second chance and having the NHL in town. Hopefully for them it goes better than it did for Atlanta but there is a part of me that just doesn't think any hockey fan can really celebrate over a team failing, whatever positive comes from it.

We are interested, what are your feelings?

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Doc Wins Sports Emmy

Written by Darren S. on .



Mike “Doc” Emrick was named Monday by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences as the winner of a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality - Play-by-play for his work on NHL telecasts for NBC Sports. Last month, "Doc" won a New York Emmy for his work on MSG Network as the Devils’ play-by-play announcer. Congrats Mike "Doc" Emrick, you certainly have a gift and I am glad that Devils fans get to hear that gift the most!!

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