WILMINGTON, MA – The NHL and NHLPA made it official this week that realignment will be coming next season when the players’ union agreed to the plan for the following two seasons with a re-evaluation following the 2014-15 season. That means the Bruins and the other four Northeast Division teams will remain together in the next division, and the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings will all be joining the enhanced division.
The majority of Bruins players didn’t care one way or the other about the Florida teams added to the division, and some looked forward to the extra road trips to the Sunshine State. But many of them were looking forward to more games against their fellow Original Six member in Detroit, as well as the home-and-home that the Bruins will play against each of the other 29 NHL teams next season and beyond.
“I’m happy about it. Geographically it makes sense. I never understood why we only went to Detroit or Chicago every other year. I would think you’d want as many Original Six meetings as you could have,” said Milan Lucic. “I know Detroit has wanted to come to the Eastern Conference for a while. It’s good to see them and I’m sure they’re going to be really happy. But for us we have to play them five more times than just the usual one time.
“It will make for a good, interesting division next year. You look at the way our division is playing this year, and if you add Detroit and the two Florida teams it will make for much more competition. The two-way commitment is good too to see where we’re at, and where relocation is at after the next two years.”
One area of the plan Lucic didn’t love was the division playoff rounds. Starting next season each team will play the first two rounds of their playoffs within the division before moving on to the conference finals and Stanley Cup Finals. But he also admitted that building divisional rivalries and potential playoff matchups between four of the six Original Six teams was too good to pass up.
“I’m on the fence with that. I like it for the first round, but I think after that it should all be reset,” said Lucic. “It’s going to increase rivalries whether we’re playing any of the teams. There is more likely that there will be an Original Six playoff in our division whether it’s us, Toronto, Detroit or Montreal.
“It will make for some interesting outcomes over the next couple of years.”
While the new NHL realignment will have some effects on a franchise like Boston, it was clearly done to benefit teams like the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets that will now be playing their neighboring teams. And to benefit a Detroit Red Wings team that has long been one of the model franchises in the NHL and will certainly add something to the mix of teams that already comprise the bizarrely named “Central Division” that includes Boston and Montreal.