CALGARY, AB -- The National Hockey League’s new realignment plan has the Calgary Flames California dreamin’.
The new plan, approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors on Thursday, will see the Flames join the likes the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes with California clubs in the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks to form a new western-based division.
“It doesn’t hurt to get some Vitamin D, a little bit of sun and spend a little more time in SoCal, it’s always nice,” Mike Cammalleri said.
“As long as you’re winning the games.”
All joking aside, Cammalleri acknowledged the new alignment allows for a more favourable set-up in terms of travel, scheduling and rest.
“First thing is its nice going that way time zone wise,” he said. “You get to bed earlier, you get your rest and you feel much fresher going that way than you would going east.”
The new alignment sees the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets depart to the Eastern Conference, while welcoming the Winnipeg Jets westward.
That’s music to Blake Comeau’s ears. Starting his career in the east with the New York Islanders, a more relaxed travel schedule is welcomed by the Flames forward.
“One thing I’ve noticed coming to the west compared to the east is that travel is already a lot worse with the time zones and all that,” he said. “But I think it will help out teams like us, teams on the western time zone, not going to Detroit and Columbus as much with a three hour time change.”
Adding another Canadian team into the conference also re-ignites a rivalry for the Flames, captain Jarome Iginla noted.
“I know when we play the other Canadian teams, the fans sure enjoy those games and beating those teams probably a little more,” Iginla said. "Vancouver, even when we play Ottawa, Toronto, they’re always special games, Montreal, so it’d be nice to add Winnipeg more to that mix.”
With realignment, the regular season schedule would see the Flames play every team in the other conference, both at Scotiabank Saddledome and on the road. Getting the opportunity to play in every building is another attractive feature of realignment, according to Iginla.
“I think it’s great to go to each building and to have every team,” he said. “Most hockey fans, they love their team but they do enjoy seeing the other guys around the league and getting to see them up close, not just on the highlights. It’s also fun to get to play against those guys every year and just to get to see each team.”
Another feature of realignment is a revamped playoff structure.
The top three teams in each division will earn a trip to the postseason. The remaining playoff spots go wild cards – the top two remaining records in each conference. That means the Western Conference playoff picture could hypothetically feature five teams from the same division.
Teams will see divisional playoff match-ups as well. The highest seeded divisional winner will draw the lowest-seeded wild card, while the second and third place teams of each division will do battle.
In fact, the only hiccup Lee Stempniak can see with the new realignment falls in the playoff structure. With just 14 teams out west and 16 in the east, Stempniak isn’t sure how postseason play will balance out.
“I guess a little bit of the fairness for equality in making the playoffs is my only issue,” he said. “I really don’t know how you remedy that if you’re going to make a change to that format.”
Whatever variations do come about doesn’t change coach Bob Hartley’s end game.
“No, not at all. I can do lots of things but I can’t move cities so that’s one thing,” he said. “They’re going to tell us how many games we’re going to play against certain players and then we’ll just go from there but it doesn’t change anything.”
Except the amount of sun shining on the Flames next season.
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