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Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford is known for taking — and receiving — some of the most punishing checks in the NHL. He lists teammates Dustin Brown and Matt Greene among the hardest hitters in the game. Who are his hardest-hitting opponents?



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NHL Confidential

Brad RichardsonVancouver Canucks forward Brad Richardson, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche, recommends John Elway's restaurant in suburban Denver. "It’s the best prime rib I’ve ever had," Richardson says. "Have it with the creamed corn."

JP

Five NHL realignment ideas that won’t pass

NHL realignmentAmong the line items on the NHL Board of Governors’ agenda today is conference/divisional realignment. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if there are any other line items on the agenda.

Maybe that’s for the better. Realignment is a contentious issue rife with politics, and coming up with the right permutation for 30 teams across North America is tough business. I racked my brain over the weekend trying to come up with something fair. Something that, for starters, wouldn’t leave teams in the Eastern time zone in the Western Conference.

Good luck with that one, Board of Governors. I got nothing.

Actually, I got something.

These ideas won’t pass, for the simple reason that geography has no bearing on what I’m about to propose. But let’s pretend for the moment that geography is overrated and there are better, more creative ways to organize and name the NHL’s different divisions. Suddenly, it gets interesting.

So here, without apology, are five realignment ideas that won’t pass (but wouldn’t it be fun if they did?) …

I. GOONS

Here, we align the divisions based on enforcers.

Rob Ramage, Stu Grimson, Lyle Odelein, Chris Simon and Bryan Marchment played for so many NHL teams during their careers, one can align an entire league based on where these five players played. Almost.

There are only five teams that never employed any of these tough guys, but we found a creative workaround. We also took the liberty of claiming the New Jersey Devils for Rob Ramage since the Colorado Rockies, who drafted Ramage first overall in 1979, moved to New Jersey and became the Devils in 1982.

We decided to name our sixth division after journeyman defenseman Grant Ledyard, who played for four of the five teams listed under his name below. The exception is Winnipeg – Ledyard never played for the Jets, Atlanta Thrashers or Phoenix Coyotes – but he was born in Winnipeg, so I don’t think Grant will mind claiming the Jets as his own.

Upward and onward:

Tie Domi Conference

Ramage Division

Montreal
New Jersey
Philadelphia
St. Louis
Toronto

Grimson Division

Anaheim
Carolina
Detroit
Los Angeles
Nashville

Odelein Division

Columbus
Dallas
Florida
Phoenix
Pittsburgh

Tiger Williams Conference

Simon Division

Calgary
Minnesota
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Washington

Marchment Division

Chicago
Colorado
Edmonton
San Jose
Tampa Bay

Ledyard Division

Boston
Buffalo
Ottawa
Vancouver
Winnipeg

II. COLORS

Who doesn’t like a good uniform design?

Under this proposal, we color-coordinate. Teams must have a shade of the color listed below somewhere in one of their uniforms – home, away or alternate.

Remarkably, this concept plays out quite plausibly. We created a “Kaleidoscope Division” for the handful of teams whose uniforms don’t strictly feature one primary color in addition to black or white. Filling out the Green Division was tough, but fortunately one of the feathers in Tommy Hawk’s headdress fit the bill.

Potential pun: “It’s always a slugfest when the Black and Blue get together.”

Orange Division

Philadelphia
Anaheim
New York Islanders
Edmonton
Calgary

Green Division

Minnesota
New Jersey
Dallas
Vancouver
Chicago

Black Division

Los Angeles
Pittsburgh
Boston
San Jose
Colorado

Blue Division

Toronto
St. Louis
Tampa Bay
Buffalo
Winnipeg

Red Division

Carolina
Detroit
Phoenix
Florida
Ottawa

Kaleidoscope Division

Montreal
Washington
New York Rangers
Columbus
Nashville

III. HISTORY

Historical rivalries often play a role in realignment (see: NFL, Dallas Cowboys, NFC East). As fans, history is lodged in our hearts. It colors the way we view opposing teams – more, in fact, than the colors of a uniform.

Removing geography from the equation removes another obstacle to preserving history. Want an Original 6 Division? You got it. Want an all-Canadian division? Can do. Started paying attention to the NHL around the time of the 1968 or 1990s expansion? We’ve got you covered, too.

Note: This realignment proposes one four-team division to counterbalance the six-team Original 6 Division. We’ll call it the Relocation Division, since its four members are always rumoured to be moving to Canada “as early as next season.” (No more than two of its members should be allowed in the playoffs in a given season. It’s bad for ratings.)

Original 6

Boston
Toronto
Montreal
New York
Chicago
Detroit

’68 Division

Philadelphia
Los Angeles
St. Louis
Pittsburgh
Dallas

’90s Division

Anaheim
San Jose
Tampa Bay
Florida
Carolina

Relocation Division

Phoenix
Nashville
Columbus
New York Islanders

‘Get a Rival’ Division

Minnesota
Buffalo
Colorado
Washington
New Jersey

Canadian Leftovers

Vancouver
Calgary
Edmonton
Winnipeg
Ottawa

IV. MASON-DIXON LINE

Here, we bend the premise to put a new twist on geography. Rather than aligning teams East-West, why not North-South, in two conferences with no divisions?

Think about it: Teams in both conferences would have equal travel burdens across time zones. Forget about any perceived Eastern bias, because Vancouver, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose won’t start half of their games at 10 p.m. EST or later. Oh, and the contrived premise of winning your division to earn one of the top three seeds in your conference is out the window (The Hockey News’ Adam Proteau articulated this concept in arguing for a strictly Eastern/Western Conference realignment)

Welcome to the South, Philly!

North Conference

Edmonton
Calgary
Winnipeg
Vancouver
Ottawa
Montreal
Toronto
Detroit
Minnesota
Buffalo
Boston
Chicago
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
New Jersey

South Conference

Florida
Tampa Bay
Anaheim
Los Angeles
Phoenix
Dallas
Nashville
St. Louis
Colorado
San Jose
Carolina
Washington
Philadelphia
Columbus
Pittsburgh

V. ECONOMICS

The maxim has become cliche: Small-market teams can’t compete with big-market teams.

Oh yeah? Prove it.

It just so happens that Forbes came out with its annual NHL team value rankings last week. There were few surprises. We knew which strata the Maple Leafs and Coyotes were falling into before Forbes’ list came out. Now imagine a playoffs in which the winner of the Piggy Bank Division met the winner of the Swiss Bank Account Division for the Stanley Cup. The captain of the Piggy Bank champion team (no doubt standing in front of a backdrop that includes some sort of a pig logo) would announce to the cameras that his team is here to “shock the world.”

It’s the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie, communism be damned!

Remarkable, when you stick with the exact Forbes rankings – which we did below – how many current rivalries are preserved (hmmm…):

Swiss Bank Account Division

Toronto
New York Rangers
Montreal
Detroit
Boston

Cayman Islands Division

Chicago
Vancouver
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Los Angeles

Midtown Manhattan Division

Dallas
Washington
Calgary
Minnesota
Edmonton

Silicon Valley Startup Division

San Jose
Ottawa
Colorado
Anaheim
New Jersey

Ma and Pa Division

Tampa Bay
Buffalo
Carolina
Winnipeg
Nashville

Piggy Bank Division

Florida
St. Louis
Columbus
New York Islanders
Phoenix

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