Players wanted realignment concerns heard: Auld

Players wanted realignment concerns heard: Auld

PHILADELPHIA — Under the NHL’s new alignment plan, the Ottawa Senators would have been one of the winners, placed in a seven-team conference with the bulk of their games in the Eastern time zone.
But Senators goalie Alex Auld, the team’s NHLPA representative, said the big picture revealed some potentially huge disparities.
There was the fear that travel would become even worse than it is now for teams in the two western conferences, and that it would also be more difficult for them to make the playoffs, since their conferences would be comprised of eight teams each, one more than each of the two eastern conferences.
That’s why the NHLPA decided not to endorse the league’s realignment plan by the NHL-imposed deadline of Friday.
In response, the league withdrew the plan and announced that next season would be played under the current format.
“We’d asked for more information on how the schedule would be drawn up, the effect of travel, things like that, and the league wasn’t very forthcoming with much information,” said Auld, before Saturday’s game against the Flyers.
“And the other big issue was that it wasn’t an even playing field as far as every player having the same chance of making the playoffs.
“That’s a big thing that a lot of the players expressed concern with.
“Personally, for our team in our division, we’re in a favourable situation with seven teams. But you have to look at the big picture and the entire membership, and I think that was a big thing.”
Under the realignment, in the east, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina would have been in one conference, while Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay would have been in the other.
In the west, Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg would have been in one, while Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado would have been in the other.
In the seven-team conferences, teams would have played six times — three home, three away — for a total of 36 inter-division games.
In the eight-team conferences, teams would have played either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis — for a total of 38 inter-division games.
The teams in the seven-team conferences would have had 46 out-of-conference games, including 23 at home and 23 on the road.
The teams in the eight-team conferences would have had 44 out-of-conference games evenly split between home and away.
The top four teams in each conference would have qualified for the playoffs. The first-place team in each conference would have played the fourth-place team in the same conference, while the second-place team would have played the third-place team.
The four conference champions would have met in the third round, with the survivors playing for the Cup.
Auld said it wasn’t as if the NHLPA flatly rejected the alignment. The players just wanted to see that their concerns had been addressed.
“There was the possibility that some of the western teams would emerge with worse travel,” he said
“I think we were just looking for assurances that it wouldn’t be the case, and we didn’t really get that.
“We wanted to talk further but the league set (Friday) as the deadline.
“I think we just wanted more discussion, more dialogue, maybe some sample schedules for a few teams, or a league-wide schedule, and they weren’t willing to come up with that.
“Like I said, you can look at it from just your team’s perspective, but you have to look at the entire membership, because you never know when you could be on one of those teams, and the job of the union is to respect everyone.”
With the current collective bargaining agreement set to end of Sept. 15 — negotiations are expected to begin in Ottawa during all-star week — the NHLPA’s refusal to endorse the alignment plan is being called the opening salvo.
Auld wouldn’t say it should be viewed as that, but he didn’t say it shouldn’t, either.
“Obviously, considering that (the next negotiations) are so close, maybe,” he said.
“But at the same time, every decision since (NHLPA executive director) Don (Fehr) has come in, we’ve all looked at it, sort of individually, but also as connected.
“We’ll see, I guess. It may be a little too early to tell. It is obviously important.
“Every decision, we have to make sure it’s for the greater good of everybody and we have to look at the big picture.”

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