NHL Realignment Closer to Reality: Long Live the Patrick Division

NHL Realignment Closer to Reality: Long Live the Patrick Division

According to a report by TSN, the NHL has approved a realignment of its teams, moving to a four-conference format pending approval by the NHLPA. We were happy enough to see the "Atlanta Thrashers" franchise move to Winnipeg to become the second NHL incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets. The fact that this movement made it necessary for the league to reincarnate the Patrick Division* of our youths is the next benefit to be reaped. 

Let's take a look at the new NHL, from its likely new divisions to a potentially punishing playoff format...

*Of course, it's not exactly the Patrick Division, because the Carolina Hurricanes didn't exist at the time. Give us back the Hartford Whalers and we'll have it all... Well, almost. We probably won't get the great names of the divisions/conferences back either, if for no other reason than the new system gets rid of both divisions and conferences as we know them. The new proposed realignment will be a hybrid of the old and the recent—with four "conferences" representing some sort of middle ground between a pair of conferences with multiple divisions in each.

The Flyers' new conference foes, beginning as soon as next season, are the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, and Carolina Hurricanes. That's the Patrick Division from 1982-1993, plus the Hurricanes. Fans who cringed when the league traded in its history-based titles to follow in the NBA's region-based-nomenclature footsteps aren't restraining breaths in hopes of names with a bit more character, but hey, it's good to have the Caps back, at least from a rivalry standpoint. If their recent success is a sign of things to come—and we think it is—the Flyers just got back a great rival, only with a whole lot more at stake. This particular rival won enough games to meet the President last season (albeit in a weaker division).

The currently marketable Penguins also get to play within their rivalries—the Caps, the Rangers, and the Flyers. Hate them or hate them, the Pens are one of the most marketable teams in the game, a characteristic they share with three other clubs in their conference.

And hey, we've seen some success against Hurricanes, so… welcome aboard, Carolina.

The "conference" to the "north" has the weirdest adopted-team situation, with Tampa Bay and Florida joining a grouping that includes the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, and Buffalo Sabres.

The Jets will join the Flyover Conference (Blackhawks, Red Wings, Wild, Blue Jackets, Blues, Predators, and Stars—nice to see the Stars out of the "Pacific"). Out west, we'll see the three California teams—Sharks, Kings, Ducks along with the Coyotes, Avalanche, Canucks, Flames, and Oilers.

Counting on our fingers, that's two conferences that have seven teams (including the one the Flyers are in) and two that have eight. The TSN report says seven-teamers will play each other six times per season (splitting home duties), and the eight-teamers will alternate home-friendly seasons. Here's how the playoff situation could break down:

The top four teams in each Conference would qualify for the playoffs.
The first-place team would play the fourth-place team; the second-place
team would play the third-place team. The four respective Conference
champions would meet in the third round of the Playoffs, with the
survivors playing for the Stanley Cup.

NHL general managers will determine the playoff structure after round two in the proposed realignment.

A strong conference like the one the Flyers play in could pose more challenge to making the playoffs, particularly for the teams that aren't perennially good. Advancing may also prove more challenging, and teams with higher point totals could lose postseason slots to teams with lower totals in weaker conferences. If a team makes the playoffs, the likelihood that it will see a rival in the first round is high, but it could be less likely they'll make the postseason at all.

Nothing's set in concrete yet, and the reports have changed with each passing hour tonight. There are still some significant playoff questions to be answered. But it looks like a solid foundation has been poured for the league's immediate structural future.

What are your thoughts?

Best of MLB: Nelson Cruz drives in 7 as Mariners pummel Blue Jays

Best of MLB: Nelson Cruz drives in 7 as Mariners pummel Blue Jays

TORONTO -- Nelson Cruz hit his ninth career grand slam and added a three-run shot, and Hisashi Iwakuma pitched six innings to win his fifth straight start in Seattle's victory over Toronto.

Cruz hit his slam off R.A. Dickey (7-11) in the third, then added a three-run drive off Drew Storen in the eighth for his 20th career multi-homer game. He has 25 home runs this season.

It was the 13th time in team history a Mariners player has recorded seven RBIs. The team record is eight by Mike Blowers, Mike Cameron and Alvin Davis.

Kyle Seager hit a two-run homer and Nori Aoki had two RBIs and scored twice as the Mariners used a season-high 19 hits to win their third straight. Iwakuma (11-6) allowed two runs and four hits.

Wade LeBlanc pitched the final three innings for his first save (see full recap).

Stanton leads Marlins past Mets
MIAMI -- Giancarlo Stanton homered and had his first four-hit game since 2012, driving in three runs to give Jose Fernandez all the support he needed, and Miami beat New York.

Miami rocked Jacob deGrom (6-5), who allowed 10 hits and five runs, both season highs, and lasted just 3 2/3 innings in his shortest outing since August.

Fernandez (12-4) gave up two runs in seven innings to match his career high for victories, achieved in his 2013 rookie season. He also had two hits, hiking his average to .265, and drove in the first run.

Home Run Derby winner Stanton put Miami ahead to stay in the third inning when he hit a majestic two-run homer off the left-field scoreboard above the 401-foot sign. He added an RBI single in the fourth, and singled in the first and sixth, hiking his average to .241 after a prolonged slump (see full recap).  

Dodgers snap Cardinals' 5-game win streak
ST. LOUIS -- Adrian Gonzalez hit his eighth homer, red-hot Justin Turner got two more RBIs and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat St. Louis 7-2 on Saturday night to end the Cardinals' five-game winning streak.

Turner's two-run double capped a four-run third. He has 14 RBIs since the All-Star break.

Gonzalez's 429-foot solo blast to center sparked a three-run sixth.

Kenta Maeda (9-7) rebounded from a poor outing against Arizona on July 17, giving up two runs over 5 2/3 innings. Only one of the Cardinals' first 15 batters was able to hit the ball out of the infield against the Japanese right-hander.

Andrew Toles went 3 for 4 and scored once for the Dodgers. He has reached safely in nine of 10 games since being called up from the minors.

Mike Leake (7-8) allowed seven runs -- six earned -- in six innings.

Matt Adams homered for the second consecutive game. His blast to left in the fourth extended the Cardinals' streak of home runs to 14 straight games.

Aledmys Diaz reached safely for the 26th straight game with a first-inning single. Diaz's streak is the second-longest by a Cardinals rookie since Albert Pujols had streaks of 30 and 48 games in 2001 (see full recap).

Drew's walk-off triple lifts Nats past Padres
WASHINGTON -- Pinch-hitter Stephen Drew hit a game-ending RBI triple in the ninth inning to lift Washington past San Diego,

Anthony Rendon opened the bottom off the ninth with a single off reliever Kevin Quackenbush (6-4). Drew entered with one out and drove a pitch off the center-field scoreboard, and Rendon raced around the bases for the winning run.

Jonathan Papelbon (2-2) allowed a leadoff double in the ninth before retiring three straight batters. San Diego left runners in scoring position in each of the last two innings.

Washington starter Max Scherzer struck out 10 over seven innings (see full recap).

Giants top Yanks in extras to snap losing skid
NEW YORK -- Mac Williamson homered in the fifth inning and hit a tiebreaking single in the 12th, lifting San Francisco past New York for the Giants' first victory since the All-Star break.

NL West-leading San Francisco had lost a season-high six straight games and had held just one lead since the break -- when Buster Posey hit a go-ahead home run leading off the 10th inning at San Diego on July 16 only to have the Padres rally for a pair of runs in the bottom half against Santiago Casilla.

Williamson, whose fourth-inning error allowed the Yankees' run, began the comeback when he connected off Ivan Nova leading off the fifth.

Trevor Brown hit an opposite-field double to right off Anthony Swarzak (1-1) leading off the 12th, and Williamson singled up the middle with one out, just past the glove of diving shortstop Didi Gregorius. San Francisco was 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position, dropping to 7 for 64 (.111) since the All-Star break, before Williamson's single.

Cheered on by hundreds of orange-clad fans in the Giants' old hometown, San Francisco escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 10th when Casilla (2-3) retired Brian McCann on a shallow flyout and Starlin Castro on a foulout. Hunter Strickland pitched a perfect 12th for his second save (see full recap).

Joel Embiid posts amazing tribute to Sam Hinkie on Instagram

Joel Embiid posts amazing tribute to Sam Hinkie on Instagram

The treasure trove that is Joel Embiid's social media presence unearthed another jewel on Saturday evening.

The Sixers' big man took to Instagram to post a picture of himself chatting with local folk legend Sam Hinkie. As if that wasn't enough, check out the captions he wrote at the bottom.

THE GOAT #HeDiedForOurSins #TrustTheProcess

A photo posted by Joel Hans Embiid (@joelembiid) on

Let us break this down.

"THE GOAT" - As in Greatest Of All Time, not an actual goat you would find at your local petting zoo.

"#HeDiedForOurSins" - St. Sam, patron saint of analytical basketball martyrdom.

"#TrustTheProcess" - The rallying cry of the masses.

Sure, they may have taken away Sam, but they'll never take away JoJo's social media platforms. Never!

Union have no answer for Didier Drogba, Impact in 5-1 loss

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Associated Press

Union have no answer for Didier Drogba, Impact in 5-1 loss

MONTREAL  -- Didier Drogba broke out with a hat trick to lead the Montreal Impact to a 5-1 victory over the Union on Saturday night.

The 38-year-old Ivorian striker hadn't scored since May 28. He returned last week after missing three games with a thigh injury.

Ignacio Piatti returned after sitting out a one-game suspension to score a goal and add two assists. Recent signing Matteo Mancuso, who went in for Drogba in the 79th minute, got his first MLS goal in added time.

Montreal improved to 7-5-8.

Chris Pontius scored for Philadelphia (8-7-6).