“Well, suck me sideways!” – Lloyd Christmas
That didn’t last long. After it looked like an on-time NHL start was on life support last week, the league’s owners appear poised to do the unthinkable: Play fair.
Take it away, Pierre:
Financial hurdles cleared, NHL/NHLPA now hammer away on season planning. Still lots to do to get ready for a Jan 13 start. Quick update: https://t.co/AHPWq21hzV
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 8, 2020
You know those heartwarming videos you see online of beaten-down dogs being terrified of the people trying to rescue them? Eventually the pup comes around, but not before quivering in fear while nippin’ at fingers. Enya plays as the dog lives happily ever after, while Sarah McLaghlan complains she didn’t get the credit.
Well, NHL fans probably felt a lot like those dogs on Tuesday. After all the recent labor-related torture the league and it’s owners have put the fans through, it would be tough to blame them. Not exactly on-brand for billionaires (and their lawyers) to capitulate this easily. Maybe Allan Walsh scared them off? My dear friend Geoff certainly thinks so. We’ll take it!
if i had to guess, it’s probably the “the owners would’ve lost every single lawsuit they filed” option
— geoff safari (@G_Off817) December 8, 2020
In a weird way, I’m still hoping the owner’s greed itch won’t go un-scratched. Why? Well, let’s see. We all know this entire thing started because the NHL was facing the proposition of massive financial losses in the 2021 season without fans. The league is uniquely dependent on gate revenue compared to the other 3 major sports due to it’s TV contract – old news. So what changed?
Maybe it’s increased confidence in the vaccine rollout. Maybe something happened in the TV negotiations with ESPN. Or maybe, the league is further along than we thought on playing games with fans. Considering where things stand with Corona (not good) and indoor shit being shut down, that would mean outdoor games, right? Maybe? Bueller…?
What do I know, I’m just a fucking idiot on the internet. But it just seems odd how quickly this all changed. For now, I’m gonna choose to count Aramark footlong hot dogs as I go to sleep, dreaming of a 3-game February homestand at PNC Park vs. Philly. You can’t stop me.
Speaking of trashbag Philly, it appears the Pens won’t be rid of their stench anytime soon. One more time for the kids in the back, Pierre:
Not finalized yet, and still subject to change, but the 2020-21 four-division re-alignment currently looks like this according to sources:
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 9, 2020
So happy I worked so hard on that OTHER division realignment preview.
For Pens fans, your reaction to this latest divisional setup will probably depend on how much you loved the movie Mandy. If you haven’t seen it, imagine a blood-soaked, chainsaw-wielding Nic Cage flick on acid. That’s exactly what this division will feel like.
Seriously, go watch that movie.
Personally, I was a *little* disappointed in the Penguins’ new division. Two main reasons:
- Claustrophobia: I mean, this division is objectively more competitive than the last one, which included DET, FLA, CHI, and a sliding STL / NSH. It was conceivable the Penguins could finish 2nd, but no worse than 4th in the “Central”. In this latest division, I could see them finishing as low as 6th or 7th depending if things go really poorly (injuries and whatnot). Either way, the field will be CROWDED. Take your blood pressure medicine.
- Familiarity: I mentioned this last time – but bears repeating. We know most of these teams all too well. Even non-Metro teams BUF / BOS are pretty familiar to Pens fans. Conversely, I thought it would be fun to see multiple games with Kane / Toews / O’Reilly / Jossi / Tampa All Stars vs. Crosby/Malkin as they enter their twilight years. Oh well, maybe an Old Timers game 20 years from now.
Still, the competitiveness of this division will probably end up making it extraordinarily fun. If they do allow fans at games, you’re much more likely to see some fights, so that’s an indisputable plus.
I’m not gonna go into detail on each team because we all know them pretty well, and because it will probably change again by the time I hit publish. However, a couple stray thoughts:
- Don’t sleep on Buffalo. Any line with Taylor Hall and Jack Eichel is probably the best in the division. Their depth scoring is OK. Their defense still sucks though, so that’s comforting. One more year of Rasmus Ristolainen @ $5.4MM and top minutes!
- The Bruins won the President’s Trophy last year but hopefully will be a little more manageable. You literally have their own media giving their offseason an “F.” The loss of Krug is huge, and so far they haven’t replaced him with anyone of the same caliber. The defense is certainly a weakness (even without Chara’s corpse) but hey, any team with Marchand / Pasta / Bergeron / Kreji up front is going to be a pain in the ass to play 8-ish times in a year.
- I still can’t wait for the all-Canada division. Lock and load.
- Per CapFriendly, the Devils still have a whopping $17MM in Cap Space. You have to think Tom Fitzgerald will be a busy man in the next 30 days, otherwise they may be eliminated by St. Patty’s Day. You know the Penguins will split the season series with them 4-4 anyway, and each game will be about as much fun as getting a hand job from a lobster.
We’ll see how things progress over the next couple of weeks, but all things considered, encouraging progress. Maybe that Bettman guy ain’t so bad after all!
Enjoy Claustrophobic by PJ Morton, and enjoy your weekend indoors. I’ll be enjoying the last round of golf of the season tomorrow. Bittersweet city.