By now you've all read about the NHL's reported new realignment proposal, which for the Penguins point of view, would reportedly place them in the new version of the Northeast Division, along with current divisional teams Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo, and Boston, along with the movement of Columbus into this division as well.
The main argument against this proposal that I've read by Pens fans is that it eliminates the Pens' rivalries.
Let me start right there.
I don't know what your definition of a rival is, but in my view the vast majority of the Pens' opponents in the Atlantic Division do not fit it.
OK, I'll give you Philadelphia, but I'll tell you this, it's not the slam dunk that some of you think it is.
Yes, I'm well aware of the recent heated games led by the goonish exploits of Darien Hatcher, causing the chipping of three of Sid's teeth.
But those games are the exception rather than the rule, my friends.
The Rangers ?? If anyone seriously puts them as a legitimate rival is really grasping at straws.
The Islanders ?? Nope.
The Devils ?? Dear Lord, no.
You want to see rivals ?? Look at the NFL's AFC North with the Steelers, Ravens, Bengals and Browns. Now THOSE are rivals.
Every one of those teams, and the fans that follow them, absolutely HATE the other teams.
The NHL's Atlantic Division simply does not have that kind of rivalry, not even close.
For teams in the East in the NHL, that rivalry exists most clearly in the Northeast Division.
Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto despise each other.
Buffalo and Toronto are geographical rivals as well.
So count me in as one who would love to see the Pens be placed into this division.
The only minor thing that disappoints me is that the Capitals wouldn't be in the Pens' division after this realignment. The Caps fit the "rivals" bill as well in my opinion.
But let me provide some more justification for the Pens movement.
Having the Pens in this new division creates new (and closer) geographic rivalries as compared to it's current divisional opponents.
Columbus (185 miles from Pittsburgh), Buffalo (216 miles) and Toronto (317 miles) all are easily reachable to and from Pittsburgh for both team's fans.
Anyone who has been to a Leafs game at the Igloo knows how well Toronto fans travel to the Leafs game in the 'Burgh. I've been to the Leafs/Pens games at the Igloo two years straight now, and both of those have been among the most exciting hockey atmospheres I've ever been at. That atmosphere is almost sure to be a constant if/when the Pens join the Northeast Division.
While I wouldn't put Montreal at the same level as Toronto in terms of a prospective heated rival, it's not that far away. Montreal fans travel very well also, and it's obvious that having a strong contingent of an opponent's fans in the building provides an overall boost to the atmosphere.
Buffalo fans, whether those are Bills or Sabres fans, generally don't like anything to do with Pittsburgh, whether that's the Steelers or Penguins. Having these two in the same division is simply common sense, and is a great idea. Just watching the four times these teams go at it in the current scheduling format can see that these are great games, and the crowds are very loud and boisterous with large contingents from the away team's fans. This is a no-brainer.
Ottawa is similar to the Rangers, in my view anyway. Talented team, with smug, arrogant fans with very little success to back it up. While the geographic rivalry argument doesn't fit here (548 miles), I can take the Senators or leave 'em.
Boston falls into that category as well. Take 'em or leave 'em, kinda like the Islanders.
Some might not care right now for having the Blue Jackets as a divisional opponent. With this NHL and the salary cap, the Blue Jackets are not going to be bad team for very much longer. And having the two cities generally so close to each other makes this another natural rival.
In terms of overall NHL exposure, what better way to publicize the talents of the young and talented Pens than having them in a division with hockey-fanatic Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa ??
Want to give Pittsburgh a little boost in attendance (even though they're damn good right now at 93.4%) ?? Put them in the Northeast Division, and you'll get sellout crowds on weekday nights when nearly any of those divisional teams are in town.
And as for attendance in those other towns, while the Canadian teams (plus Buffalo) have no problem with sellouts, put the Pens with Crosby and Malkin in Columbus and Boston, and all of sudden you have sellouts there as well.
Compare that to the 10,000 that the Islanders and Devils are getting nowadays. Ugh.
So there you have it. It's a no-brainer to me. I say do it, the Flyers will get over it, believe me.