July 13, 2011

You could realign this or you can realign that

NHL realignment has been a hot topic of late mostly because it's July and we're down to wondering where Mike Comrie might sign next season.

With the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg realignment is necessary so the divisions don't look like the 14 years the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals were in the NFC East.

There've been a number of different proposals floating around. The Toronto Star had a few the other day, including one with an all-Canadian division. But the NHL -- if they do indeed go forward with a bigger realignment job than just simply swapping Winnipeg with Detroit or Columbus -- wants to try make the setup more travel and time zone friendly, which will be tough. Just look at the geography:

The setup of the NHL, with the way the teams are spread out, is going to leave with some team(s) not being happy with the final product. The Red Wings have wanted to move to the East for years. Dallas has to travel two time zones for their part in the Pacific Division. And Minnesota can't be happy either being in the Northwest.

Here's what I'd like to see from realignment. Allow me to present the 3,457,281th proposal.

The need or no need for an enforcer

So the Pittsburgh Penguins signed tough guy Steve MacIntyre to a one-year, two-way deal for $600,000 tonight closing the door on the Eric Godard era (who inked a two-year deal with the Dallas Stars on Tuesday).

Godard played 135 games with the Penguins collecting 352 penalty minutes in the process. MacIntyre has seen scant duty in the NHL after coming up during the 2008-09 season with the Edmonton Oilers.

So did GM Ray Shero not feel the need for a full-time enforcer on the roster?

Simple. Ask the Detroit Red Wings how successful you can be without one.

The Wings have been the example when the debate about whether or not a team needs an enforcer to protect its players and more importantly, its stars.

Detroit has led the NHL in the fewest majors in the six years since the lockout.

2005-06: 7
2006-07: 10
2007-08: 21
2008-09: 12
2009-10: 19
2010-11: 14

Who was their last true enforcer? Only Bob Probert comes to mind. Guys like Darren McCarty, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Lapointe all played a tough role, but contributed more than just fights. And I know Probie was more than a fighter, but he at least racked over 200 PIMs a season unlike other Red Wings of the era.

The Wings, as we all know, have been loaded with stars for a long time and the idea of needing a body to take up cap space to play three minutes a night to "protect" Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is silly.

MacIntyre is in a great situation for Shero and Dan Bylsma. He'll split his time between the Pens and Wilkes-Barre and when needed -- say, for games against Philadelphia and the New York Islanders -- MacIntyre will be summoned in case things spiral out of control.

The Pens already have enough toughness in the lineup. Between Matt Cooke, Deryk Engelland, Arron Asham, and Craig Adams, that's enough guys who can drops the mitts if need be or play the physical game enough where cooler heads could eventually prevail.

MacIntyre's two-way deal will allow for a younger forward to get more ice time and experience with the big club. And with the depth of young forwards the Pens have, it's nothing but a good thing.

Photo credit: AP via Canadian Press