NHLs New Realignment Proposal Puts 16 Teams in Eastern Conference

NHLs New Realignment Proposal Puts 16 Teams in Eastern Conference




The old Patrick Division could be getting back together
after all, along with two more teams. The Players’ Association vetoed a realignment
proposal over a year ago, but the NHL has come back with a revised plan according to CBC's Elliotte Friedman (via Puck Daddy). Hope
you don’t have a thing for symmetry.

The biggest change to the old proposal: in addition to the
Winnipeg Jets joining the Western Conference, the Detroit Red Wings and
Columbus Blue Jackets would also move into the East. For you math majors out
there, that’s 16 teams in the East compared to 14 out West. More to the point, that’s
the opposite of the previous presentation.

The Flyers’ division – or conference, as the league is
referring to the four of them – would feature all of the current Atlantic
Division clubs plus the Washington Capitals, who were members of both the defunct
Patrick Division as well as the Atlantic at one time. The Carolina Hurricanes are
set to join them too, all of which is the same as the previous arrangement.

New to the party this time around are the Blue Jackets, while
the Red Wings head over to the other grouping in the East.

From a pure geography standpoint it makes sense. It’s somewhat surprising the league
would willingly move the Red Wings, abandoning many long-standing
rivalries in the process, particularly with Chicago. Detroit isn’t
really any further west than Columbus however, and it’s said both franchises would
prefer to make the jump for travel reasons.

From a fair competition standpoint, unbalanced conferences
never make much sense. Technically the odds of making the tournament will always be better
in the West, although Friedman indicated there might be some sort
of “wild card” for the East. Who knows what that means, but will that really correct any injustices?

The league eventually expanding to 32 teams is also on the
table believe it or not (maybe they should worry about the 30 they have?), so
theoretically the unbalanced look may not be permanent. One of the expansion
teams would almost certainly be in Quebec City though, and the other could be Toronto,
so that’s one if not two more for the East.

The league needs to do something about Winnipeg sooner
rather than later, but this kind of radical realignment seems to create more
problems than it solves, not to mention could be unnecessary with expansion in
the cards. Yet all that matters in the end is whether it has the support of the players, and
if travel is the primary concern, the plan might be received quite favorably.

>> NHL's four-conference realignment proposal [Puck Daddy]

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After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.