Chicago Sun-Times

Blackhawks have some concerns over the NHL's new conference alignment

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Not everyone is on board with the NHL's new conference alignment, which brings back divisional playoffs in a four-conference format. Blackhawks veteran Andrew Brunette has his concerns.

"I'm on the fence a little bit on it," Brunette said. "I think the rivalries will be kind of neat. I really like that you're going to play the first round of the playoffs within your division. I think that's a really good idea. That's going to create almost the old Norris Division rivalries, which as a kid growing up in Ontario we watched all those ones. That will be the fun part about it.

"The hard part is if you look at our division now it could be extremely strong and teams [may miss] the playoffs because they didn't have the points. I have a little problem with that."

Brunette is referring to the possibility that the fifth team in a stronger conference next season may have more points than the fourth or third team in another, weaker conference and misses the playoffs.

Heading into Wednesday's games, the Hawks, Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings were all among the top four in points in the 15-team Western Conference. Next year, they'll be part of an eight-team conference, where only four teams make the playoffs. It's happened in the past with the old four divisions.

"It's going to be harder [to make the playoffs]," Brunette said. "There could be a year where's there five or six teams in your division that have 95 or 100 points and miss the playoffs. That's hard to take."

Coach Joel Quenneville agreed, especially considering two conferences consist of just seven teams right now. (Clear here see how the NHL realignment works) However, there is a possibility that a team like the Phoenix Coyotes may relocate. The new alignment does have some flexibility if that were to occur.

"Our conference looks like it's going to be real tough," Quenneville said. "You put these eight teams in just our group knowing that only half of them are going to make it, that's tough."

But Brunette, Quenneville and Patrick Sharp also said playing every team in the league is great for teams and all the fans. Before that wasn't the case.

"I like the idea of going to every city in the league," Sharp said. "I think it's a good idea. It's the NHL. The fans should be able to see every player play. I'm excited about that."

"It's fair to the season-ticket holder that they get to see the Crosbys and the Ovechkins every year," Brunette said.

Brunette also said the fans will love the rebirth of some rivalries.

"Playing in Minnesota for the last x-amount of years, the fans really want to get back in that division with Chicago and St. Louis," he said. "They are true rivals."

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Adam L. Jahns is a native Chicagoan. Jahns has been with the Sun-Times since 2005, covering the Hawks since 2009. He's also helped cover the Bears, Cubs, Sox and high schools. Follow him on Twitter:@adamjahns

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This page contains a single entry by Adam L. Jahns published on December 7, 2011 4:08 PM.

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