Realignment pleases Flames
RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency
|Calgary Flames left wing Alex Tanguay celebrates his goal against the Minnesota Wild with teammates Derek Smith and Jarome Iginla during the third period of their NHL hockey game in St. Paul, Minnesota November 27, 2011. (REUTERS/Eric Miller)
Alex Tanguay won’t claim to be a math wizard, but he can add the difference.
Clubs in the NHL’s eight-team conferences must beat out four teams to make the playoffs, while squads in seven-team conferences must only beat three. That distinct difference stands out after the league unveiled its proposed re-alignment format Monday night.
“Personally, I’d like to have the same shot as everybody else, and if you’re one of those conferences that has eight teams, it’ll be much tougher than teams with seven teams,” Tanguay said. “I like playing in every building, and it’s really nice every team goes everywhere. Everybody wants to see Sidney Crosby, (Alex) Ovechkin, (Jonathan) Toews in their building.
“I’d like to see it even out so every team has the same chance to make the playoffs.”
Unless the Phoenix Coyotes move prior to next season, the Flames would be in a loop with the Coyotes, the Edmonton Oilers, the Vancouver Canucks, the Colorado Avalanche, the San Jose Sharks, the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings.
The other eight-team conference consists of the Winnipeg Jets, the Minnesota Wild, the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the St. Louis Blues, the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars.
Flames GM Jay Feaster wasn’t concerned about the debate surrounding eight teams versus seven teams.
He is happy fans will see every club every season.
“We think it’s good,” said Feaster, pointing out Flames’ owner Murray Edwards is a member of the executive committee. “(Flames president) Ken King surveys the fans informally all the time, and one of the things our fans have consistently said to us is they would like to see us play every team every year at home.”
Feaster does have one aspect he’d prefer to see be different.
“In a perfect world, there would have been an all-Canadian division, strictly for the ease of travel and we wouldn’t have to clear customs as often. Yet we recognize why there are a lot of reasons it’s not practical,” Feaster said. “Everyone has to take off their team hat and put on the league hat, and I think this is exciting.”
Under the new alignment, which has yet to be ratified, teams will play their conference rivals five or six times and face the clubs in the other conferences twice — once at home and once on the road.
The Flames haven’t yet determined whether it will mean more or less travel, but the league wants to make trips more efficient.
“For example, this year we’re going to Tampa and we’re going to Sunrise (Florida). If we’re playing everybody, maybe what we’re doing is play Carolina and, if this was last year, Atlanta, too,” Feaster said. “We didn’t look at it from a standpoint it would be this many more miles. We think it’s a good thing for the fans, and it’s a good thing for the league.”
In the playoffs, each conference would have four playoff teams battle to reach the league semifinal. It’s not yet been announced how the league semifinal would be set up.
In theory, you could have the Vancouver Canucks face the Florida Panthers in one semifinal with the winner heading to a Stanley Cup final against the winner of a Detroit Red Wings-Buffalo Sabers series.
“That could be a big travel difference,” Flames defenceman Scott Hannan said. “But I like the idea of playing (a) home-and-home (series) with everybody (each season). It’s fun for our fans to see everyone from around the league and fun to go everywhere.”
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