Flyers hope for favorable NHL realignment outcome

The Flyers are opposed to an NHL realignment plan that has the Flyers and their cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in different divisions. Above, Claude Giroux scores in Steel City.
The Flyers are opposed to an NHL realignment plan that has the Flyers and their cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in different divisions. Above, Claude Giroux scores in Steel City. (KEITH SRAKOCIC / Associated Press)
Posted: December 05, 2011

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The NHL's board of governors will meet Monday and Tuesday in Pebble Beach, Calif., and make decisions that will reshape the league's future.

At the top of the list: Realigning the 30-team league for the 2012-13 season.

The Flyers will have club chairman Ed Snider, club president Peter Luukko, and general manager Paul Holmgren at the meeting. They are opposed to one plan that has the Flyers and their cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, in different divisions.

"It's such a great rivalry, and it's so important to both Pittsburgh and Philly," Luukko said after the Flyers' 4-2 win over the host Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night. "It also means a lot to the state.

"We would find it totally unacceptable" to be in a different division.

The Winnipeg Jets (née Atlanta Thrashers) will be moved to the Western Conference, and Detroit or Columbus could be shifted to the East. Nashville is a dark horse to move to the East.

Complicating matters is whether financially strapped Phoenix will remain in the league beyond this season, and whether the Coyotes will move east to Québec City.

The league is expected to go from a six-division setup to a four-division format, with seven teams in two divisions, and eight teams in the other two divisions. If that happens, the top four teams in each division would make the playoffs. Teams would play division rivals five or six times, and every other NHL team in a home-and-home series. The first two playoff rounds, in all likelihood, would be within teams' own divisions. For the most part, teams would be grouped in the same time zones.

A two-thirds vote - 20 of the 30 teams - is needed to pass any plan.

Luukko thinks there is enough support to keep the Flyers and Penguins in the same division. "The league is trying to keep the rivalries together," he said.

In one of the many proposals, one of the four divisions would look like this: Flyers, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Washington, and Carolina.

Another proposal has Pittsburgh in a different division, and Tampa Bay and Florida in the Flyers' division.

The Red Wings want to be in the East because they would play more road contests with earlier starting times, a factor in getting young fans to follow the team's games. The Wings would also have less of a traveling grind and a home schedule with more games against Original Six rivals Toronto, Boston, and Montreal.

Injury update. Defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who held his shoulder after a late-game hit on Saturday, suffered just a minor injury, according to Holmgren. "Nothing serious," he said, adding Meszaros will play Wednesday in Buffalo.

Holmgren said winger James van Riemsdyk, who has missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, was "progressing."

Breakaways. After facing the Sabres, the Flyers play host to Pittsburgh Thursday in a matchup of arguably the NHL's two best players: Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux. Entering Sunday, Giroux was tied with Toronto's Phil Kessel for the NHL lead with 32 points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last Flyer to lead the NHL in points after at least 25 games was Eric Lindros in 1998-99, who after 33 games was tied with Jaromir Jagr, now Giroux's linemate. . . . In Saturday's game, Phoenix was credited with 49 hits - 14 by Shane Doan - while the Flyers were given just 16. The Flyers had 22 blocked shots, including five by Braydon Coburn, and the Coyotes had seven.


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com or @BroadStBull on Twitter.

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