NHL realignment is back on the front burner, and that’s good news for the Dallas Stars. The new plan hasn’t been finalized yet, but a plan for next season could be in place by the end of the month.
At this point the realignment scenario is said to be similar to what the league rolled out in December 2011, a four-conference alignment that will eliminate some of the geographical inequities of the current system. Winnipeg playing in the Southeast Division is one problem. The Stars, of course, have been itching to get out of the Pacific Division.
“The new system is dramatically better than the existent system,” said Stars president Jim Lites, who is keeping close tabs on the realignment issue. “The status quo is awful for us, and the change is 95 percent of what we would want.”
There have been some tweaks to that 2011 plan – apparently a few teams moved have been around to different conferences – but the Stars still are expected to be grouped with teams primarily in their own time zone, and would play more games in their own time zone. That will help with the team’s travel, among the toughest in the league. And it will bolster the team’s television broadcasts, which are hampered by the high number of divisional road games out West.
“Just let us play in prime time and we’ll be fine,” Lites said. “You can’t start television at 9:30 at night. It doesn’t work.”
The December 2011 plan had the Stars in a conference with Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg. The Stars’ conference may not look exactly like that under the latest configuration, but it is expected to be close and that will be a positive change from the Pacific Division, where the Stars have been situated since 1998 and where none of their division rivals is in the same time zone as Dallas.
The league and the NHLPA are discussing realignment and trying to work out the final details. The players rejected the 2011 plan over concerns about increased travel and how teams would qualify for the playoffs when the number of teams in each conference will be different. This time it is expected the league and the players will be on the same page before it goes to the NHL Board of Governors for a vote.
Realignment could come up for a vote by the NHL Board of Governors within the next two weeks. If approved, the plan is expected to be implemented for the 2013-14 season.
Oleksiak to AHL, opportunity for Larsen
The Stars sent defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to the Texas Stars of the AHL on Thursday. Oleksiak played six games, picking up one assist and a minus-one rating while averaging 15:40 of ice time.
“Just want him to play big minutes, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of Oleksiak heading to the AHL. “We want to try get a little stability back there with our other pairs. We thought he did real good. … We’re not playing him Friday, so we want him to play a couple games.”
Gulutzan said Oleksiak will come back up to Dallas, but he wasn’t sure when.
The move opens the door for more playing time for Philip Larsen, who has been a scratch in five of the last seven games.
“There’s never been a message for Larsen,” said Gulutzan. “He’s a competitive kid, he’s played hard and he’s played fine. He’s going to get an opportunity and we’re going to try to stabilize some pairs.”