The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/23/13 at 01:33 PM ET
Updated with some trite cliches at 1:51 PM: I'm posting this story in TMR because ESPN's Pierre LeBrun's article about the already-apparent effects of the NHL's decision to realign its franchises for the upcoming season includes Red Wings-related content...
But LeBrun astutely notes that realignment will yield positives for teams like Dallas, Detroit and Minnesota, but "more of the same" for most teams, including San Jose, and there'salso no doubt that teams like the Panthers and Lightning got "dinged" and then some.
For the Wings, less travel is absolutely huge, as are the returns of Original Six rivalries with the Canadiens, Bruins and Maple Leafs, but the "Flortheast"/"Atlantic" division will make the Wings' road to the playoffs more difficult, but Jimmy Howard believes that the Wings will acclimate to their new surroundings in short order...
Of particular intrigue will be Detroit's move into the new Atlantic Division with Original Six buds the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, along with the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. First, after years in the West, the Red Wings have to educate themselves about their new surroundings.
"I think so," Wings goalie Jimmy Howard told ESPN.com. "The West was so much about systems, everyone plays their systems to a T, the East is a bit more free-flowing. We know everyone's stars, but it's going to be about learning about role players and learning their tendencies. That will be a big part of the transition."
What better way to get that East intel than having new teammates Daniel Alfredsson (formerly of Ottawa) and Stephen Weiss (formerly of Florida) provide it? Both have played exclusively in the East their entire careers.
"It's great that we got those two guys in the dressing room with us, we'll be able to lean on them at the start," said Howard.
And while the Stars and Wild are pleased as punch about their new geographic situations...
"There's a few big winners, but certainly two of those have to be Dallas and us," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told ESPN.com, "because we were Central time zone teams playing the majority of our road games in the Pacific and Mountain time zones. It's going to vary from year to year, but this season, for example, we have six fewer games in the Pacific/Mountain time zones, and those six games will now be in the Eastern and the Central. That makes a big difference.
"I use this example a lot for people: Philadelphia and Calgary are both basically two and a half hours away from Minnesota [by air]. But we can play in Philly and be home by 1 a.m., whereas if we play in Calgary, we're not home until 4 a.m. Which means you usually stay the night instead. If you can get guys in bed that same night, you don't lose the next day. The savings we'll have in terms of wear and tear will be significant for our franchise. Plus, the majority of our games now will be aired on TV in the Eastern or Central time zones. There're a lot of benefits with this."
The Panthers aren't exactly thrilled with their lot in realignment life:
Of course, as we said before, it's not perfect for everybody. The two Florida teams, in particular, seem to get the raw end of the deal from a competitive and travel perspective. Having to fly more regularly into Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa and deal with customs certainly adds more hours in the airport, not to mention more competition in terms of playoff spots than in the old, weaker Southeast Division.
"It's hard to make the playoffs in any scenario. It's a tough league. There's a lot of parity now," Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon told ESPN.com, downplaying any negative impact from realignment for his team. "It's good for us, really, long-term business-wise. We have four Original Six teams in our division. And overall for hockey, it had to be done," added Tallon. "Obviously for Tampa and ourselves, it's more travel. But business-wise, it's easier to sell those new teams in our divisions on weekdays than other teams."
LeBrun continues at length, and his article's more than worth your time.
Update: The Canadian Press's Stephen Whyno penned an Eastern Conference preview, suggesting that, and I quote, "New teams, new alignments make NHL's Eastern Conference a mystery." He's predicting that the Wings will finish 3rd in the Atlantic Division, behind the Bruins and Senators:
3. Detroit Red Wings
Last season: 24-16-8, 56 points, seventh seed in West, lost in conference semifinals to Chicago
Who's gone: C Valtteri Filppula, D Carlo Colaiacovo
Who's new: RW Daniel Alfredsson, C Stephen Weiss
How they make the playoffs: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg beat up on the Eastern Conference and show that Alfredsson was right to think the Red Wings had a better shot at the Cup than the Senators. Jimmy Howard makes good on the first year of his new contract.
How they miss the playoffs: The stars age fast, unable to keep up with the physicality of the division. Well removed from Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement, Detroit's blue-line still misses him badly.
[sarcasm] ONOES THE WINGS ARE OLD SLOW AND SMALL WE'VE NEVER HEARD THAT BEFORE! [/sarcasm]
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.