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Eric Thomas: Quit Whining About NHL Realignment

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ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 6: Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings looks to score a goal against Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center  on December 6, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS, MO – DECEMBER 6: Henrik Zetterberg #40 of the Detroit Red Wings looks to score a goal against Brian Elliott #1 of the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on December 6, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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The NHL realignment into four, um, things have obviously caused a great deal of controversy. Of course it did. There is no way it was going to be the greatest thing ever, by any estimation. It really doesn’t matter.

I hated the realignment at first too, and that comes out of my immediate mistrust of Gary Bettman. I have no idea where this came from. It’s not like he is the only sports commissioner that has meddled or presided over lockouts. But for some reason I don’t like him it all. He has never called me names or spoken ill of my family members but my dislike curiously endures. Gary Bettman could hand feed me chocolate covered cherries and I would spit them back in his face out of pure muscle memory. I can’t explain where this immediate reaction comes from, but there it is.

Having said that, the new alignment seems to keep the Red Wings in a position to make the playoffs every year. This is good. If the Wings were in a division with the Bruins, Caps and Penguins that certitude would not be present. Detroiters don’t tend to know the names of the new Wings until January and there is no need to upset that apple cart.

The Wings also have a more favorable travel schedule, which means game 3 of the playoffs will start at human time rather than four in the morning. Hockey should never air at the same time as a royal wedding. The only downside is it’s harder to spot your fellow hockey fans at the office the next day. Not a huge downside, but it is there nonetheless.

Some Wings fans will correctly argue that if you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. As sage as the words of Rick Flair always are, this idea is always fun until it happens. Playing a lot of good teams in hockey seems to grind down the players. I still blame the jackhammer series with the Blackhawks as the reason the Wings didn’t kiss the 2009 cup. By the time Detroit got to game 7 they were just gassed. Sid the kid got to sleepwalk through the series with the Hurricanes, and got almost a week to play with his Hello Kitty dolls before lacing up for the series with Detroit (he is the man for coming back from the concussion, but I am not letting that one go).

Okay, so the Wings won’t be playing Ovie or Sid on a regular basis like we had hoped, but with dynasty comes responsibility. The NHL needs the Red Wings to sell tickets in stupid Nashville and dumb Columbus, but at least we keep our rivalry with Chicago going.

There are plenty of things we can whine about when it comes to the realignment but it could have been a lot worse.

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