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What happened to realignment?

The Winnipeg Jets are still stuck in the Southeast Division with Carolina, Tampa Bay, Washington and Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The Winnipeg Jets are still stuck in the Southeast Division with Carolina, Tampa Bay, Washington and Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

We’re not out of the NHL lockout woods just yet, but it feels like we’re getting closer to real action. That’s reflected in the mailbag questions you’ve been submitting of late: fewer collective bargaining agreement inquiries, more on-ice queries. Warms my heart’s cockles. Thanks again for all your questions, regardless of whether I can address them in this space.

Greetings, Adam! Just curious what your thoughts might be regarding the future of John Davidson. He's proven himself an astute hockey man by virtue of his overhauling of the Blues and now, thanks to a new ownership that I trust no farther than Stephen Hawking could throw Zdeno Chara, he's a man without a job. How quickly do you think JD will resurface? And do you believe, as I do, the Blues are going to suffer as a result of his dismissal?
Jim Reinecke, St Louis, Mo.


Greetings, Jim!

While there’s no doubt Davidson is one of the most respected hockey men around, I don’t see his departure as a negative comment on the Blues’ direction. The fact is, the hockey management business is just as competitive as the NHL’s on-ice battles and there is regular turnover as owners and management structures change.

For example, I think of the path Joe Nieuwendyk traveled on towards becoming Stars GM: after he retired in 2006, Nieuwendyk spent one year in Florida as a consultant to then GM Jacques Martin, then moved to Toronto for a year in the role of special assistant to GM Cliff Fletcher, then was hired by Dallas to run their organization. The Panthers didn’t improve until last year and the Leafs have struggled, but my point is that this type of thing happens all the time.

Granted, Davidson was in St. Louis a lot longer than that (from 2006 until now), but the team changed ownership and they’ve got a slew of savvy hockey voices (including GM Doug Armstrong, senior adviser to the GM Al MacInnis and v-p of hockey operations Dave Taylor) to keep them on the right path. The work Davidson did for them should sustain them well into the future.

Where does Davidson wind up? He has been most closely linked with Columbus, but there’s no guarantee he’ll join that struggling franchise. Regardless, whether he’s back with a team or whether he returns to the world of broadcasting, Davidson will be around for some time to come.

Hi Adam, as a fan who is relatively new to hockey I was very intrigued last season when the NHL discussed changing the conference structure as I thought the new look groupings would create new and interesting rivalries (and of course the new set up was ideal to add two expansion teams). Do you think this is something the league will come back to in the near future? If not do you think they'll at least address Winnipeg's current situation? Also, just wanted to say I've recently discovered the THN podcast, it's really helping to keep up my interest with the lack of games being played!
Matt Merritt, Portsmouth, U.K.


Hi Matt,

Thanks for the kind words; glad you enjoy THN Radio.

Although the NHLPA shot down the league’s first attempt at realignment, there’s not a shred of doubt in my mind it will be revisited at the first opportunity, which most likely will be the 2013-14 campaign.

Clearly, NHL brass believes the current system is outdated; now it’s simply about getting buy-in from all parties. But for this season – if and when it ever begins – Winnipeg and all other teams are stuck in the division they played in last season.

Hey Adam, First one's not hockey related - I was wondering if you grew up in Toronto? I found an old swimming report card from when I was a kid and my instructor was Adam Proteau, and I thought of you!

Second one is hockey related - With older players having trouble securing contracts post-lockout (notably, Dominik Hasek in the last few days), I was wondering what the deal with player retirement is? How come some players have official announcements and releases, while some never "formally" retire? Does that mean they don't receive a pension? Is it just a personal choice? Thanks Adam - I hope I hear from you about that first one!
Ryan McBurney, Toronto


Hey Ryan,

Yes indeed, before I became a sportswriter, I was a lifeguard and swim teacher. It was a great job for a student and I’d recommend it to anyone. Hope I at least passed you.

As far as retirements go, it’s really dependent on the player and his particular situation. There’s no hiding the choice of top-end stars to step away from the game, so players such as Nicklas Lidstrom are celebrated greatly. However, for the bulk of NHLers, the choice to end their career in the planet’s best league isn’t their own.

For example, longtime defenseman Patrice Brisebois played his last game in the 2008-09 campaign and held out hope he’d receive an offer for the following season. When that didn’t materialize, he began his post-career life (and now is a member of the Canadiens management team). It’s not a comment on his contributions that he went out with more whimper than bang. It’s just the reality.

In terms of pensions, they’re based on number of career games credited to the player, including games missed due to injury, trade or waiver claim. To qualify for an $8,000 per year pension that begins at age 45, players must be credited with 160 games. If they have at least 400 games, they receive $12,500 a year from age 45 on, as well as a $250,000 lump sum payout at age 55. Those numbers will change when a new labor deal is agreed to, but for now, that’s the breakdown.

Adam, how do you think Ovechkin will do in the points department? Also, how do you think Washington will do with new head coach Adam Oates?
Simon Ramsay, Georgetown, Ont.


Simon,

I hear nothing but good things about Oates’ coaching abilities. He’s apprenticed behind NHL benches, paid his dues and earned the opportunity he’s received from the Capitals. They’ve got more than enough talent to work with – yes, even after Alex Semin’s departure – and should be a contender for top spot in the Southeast Division.

Ovechkin, on the other hand, has much more pressure on him – pressure to show he’s not a coach-killer; pressure to show he can rebound to the offensive form that captured the imagination of the hockey world when he first broke into the league in 2005; and pressure to demonstrate he can be an effective leader of a still-young Caps team. Not sure if he’ll come through on every one of those counts, but nobody is giving up on him yet.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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