NHL realignment thoughts, Blackhawk trade strategy overview - Philadelphia News, Weather and Sports from WTXF FOX 29

NHL realignment thoughts, Blackhawk trade strategy overview: Cimaglia

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

There has been disapproval shown by some Blackhawk faithful because the hated Detroit Red Wings will not be in the same division as Chicago next season.

In football, the Bears biggest rival by far is the Packers and that is based almost entirely on facing them during the regular season. In baseball, the biggest rival for the Cubs is the Cardinals, once again based on playing them throughout the regular season and also because of geography.

Over the years many times the Blackhawks have developed different rivals often because of heated battles taking place during the playoffs. Long time Hawk fans will recall rivalries not only including Detroit but also Montreal, Toronto, Minnesota North Stars and of late Vancouver.

Admittedly in the last 15 years or so the battles with the Wings became more heated and benefited from the proximity of the cities. It wasn't all that long ago Red Wings fans had a much easier time traveling to Chicago and getting a good seat than they could buying a ticket in Detroit. So for years Hawk faithful were embroiled with fans wearing Red Wing sweaters in the United Center and for the most part the Hawks came out on the losing end.

Times have changed and now many Chicago fans would name Vancouver as their most hated rival. That will last for awhile but over time there will be a similar hatred developed for another franchise. So my advice would be to give this new set up a chance as it has been approved for the following two seasons.

A significant benefit to the realignment is every team from the Eastern Conference will visit the United Center for at least one game each season. The Blackhawks will also travel to play in Boston, Detroit, Montreal, New York and Toronto every season.

There is something about an Original Six matchup that is difficult to describe but the atmosphere is electric and currently they don't happen often enough.

Beginning in the fall the NHL will be divided into four divisions determined by geography and time zones. The Eastern Conference will include teams in the Eastern Time zone. This means the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will move out of the Blackhawks division. They will be replaced by Colorado, Dallas and Winnipeg.

The Western Conference teams will be divided into two seven team divisions. The Eastern Conference will be comprised of two eight team divisions.

The playoffs will be comprised of 16 teams, which will include the top three finishers in each Division. Then, four wild card qualifiers will come from the two teams remaining in each Conference with the best records.

Being realistic the realignment makes total sense.

It is difficult to build a fan base without games shown on TV, as Rocky Wirtz quickly understood. A team like Dallas, having to play in the Pacific time zone didn't bode well for TV ratings on their road games. Some teams, and it would seem the time zone differences were a big reason, do not televise all of their road games.

Also kids are the future audience for the NHL, and they won't be able to watch a road game when it begins well after their bedtime. The same can be said for those who get up early for work.

Commissioner Gary Bettman should use every influence to try to get all franchises to televise every road game, and now that should be easier to do.

Trade Deadline Strategy

Being a GM isn't an easy job and Stan Bowman may be caught between not upsetting the apple cart and not having anything of value to deal.

My aim would be to find a player who can win faceoffs and help on the power play. It would be best to find one player that could do both because the boat is full. Of course a spot could open up if a player off the roster is dealt. Most likely Bowman will be reluctant to make a big change as the results have been very good so far.

Keeping the power play in top form is important for a number of reasons. There would be a problem if teams don't fear taking penalties while playing the Blackhawks because the power play is not potent. As we can see scoring goals is not always easy and in many games the difference could be a power play conversion.

Hawk players who could be traded away without being missed are few in number. Plus those who GM Bowman wouldn't mind dealing probably don't have much trade value. For example, at this point in his career Jamal Mayers doesn't have any real trade value.

Many Hawk fans wouldn't mind seeing Dan Carcillo leave town, but he isn't an attractive trade target for anyone. Since returning from another leg injury Carcillo has not skated as well. He hasn't played as much either and considering his cap hit of $825,000 for next season there won't be a long line of suitors.

The most attractive player the Hawks might consider giving up is Viktor Stalberg, but trading him now probably doesn't make much sense.

Although Stalberg is a UFA this summer and maybe Bowman figures he won't be able to pay his price, the third line has played really well. Stalberg's trade value is lessened because he is about to become a free agent and a potential suitor would realize he could be gone after this season.

Trading Stalberg alone wouldn't bring the Hawks a top six center, and if not why deal him for a bottom six forward. By subtracting Stalberg only to add another third or fourth player, even if it is a center, doesn't seem to make much sense.

Michael Frolik has played well but his salary cap hit is $2.33 million for next year. By himself Frolik isn't enough to garner significant interest or a big return. Once again it would be a case of dealing a fourth liner player for another fourth liner.

The Hawks can't afford to trade any defenders. If Steve Montador is able to successfully return to the NHL he could possibly be used as a number six defenseman but questions about his health must be answered first. Many teams like to have eight defensemen they can rely on for a playoff run as injuries do happen.

So this leaves Bowman with a situation whereby he may have to find a team willing to deal a useful roster player for an AHL prospect and or draft picks.

Ice Hog forward Ben Smith will be on a one way contract next season. If Bowman doesn't feels Smith is going to crack the Chicago lineup in October he could be trade bait. Brandon Bollig is in the same situation, on a two way contract now which will be a one way next season. Bowman could feel the same about Bollig but the Hawks don't have other big, tough forwards that are NHL ready.

Three other Rockford Ice Hogs could have some trade value but there may not be a long line of suitors. Defensemen Shawn Lalonde and Dylan Olsen may garner some interest. Once highly thought of first round draft pick Kyle Beach could be used as part of a trade package but his stock has dropped.

Besides Smith, the Ice Hogs with the most trade value that Bowman probably would consider dealing are left winger Jeremy Morin and center Brandon Pirri. The issue with those three is they may have too much value to deal for a fourth line rent-a-center, but not enough to get much more.

Forward Jimmy Hayes seems to be the chosen one of the organization these days.

Hayes was prepped this season in Rockford to play center. Yet when Patrick Sharp was injured Hayes was brought up to take his place at wing. More accurately, Hayes was called up to play left wing and his original position has been right wing. So Hayes, who hasn't done a bad job, was kind of forced into a position he hasn't played this season nor in the past.

Blackhawk management wanted Hayes in Chicago before a natural scoring left wing like Morin. Hayes was also promoted ahead of Smith, who is more of puck battler with hands who could have fit on the left side across from Patrick Kane. So it seems unlikely Hayes would be near the top of the list of probable trade candidates.

If Marian Hossa is still out next week, when the Hawks play on Monday and Tuesday, it will be interesting to see if Morin or another Ice Hog forward is called up. If not, one or two of them could be headed out of town if a trade comes down by April 3.

My guess is Bowman will find some help but as you can see his task isn't so easy. No one is going to bend over to help the team with the best record.

Bowman may have to find a trade partner who isn't looking for a quick return. Most likely it will be a club willing to acquire young players who could become solid NHL players in years to come.

I will be back on Tuesday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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