Tuesday, December 6, 2011

NHL Realignment - What Do You Think?

As you've probably heard, the NHL's Board of Governors has approved a realignment plan that, pending approval from the NHLPA, should be in place for the 2012-13 season. The current format of two three-division conferences will be replaced by a four conference format.

The catalyst for this change was the Atlanta Thrashers franchise moving to Winnipeg. It just didn't make sense for a team located in Manitoba to be a member of the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division going forward. Other teams had some gripes with the current format as well, most notably the Red Wings. The Wings are currently a Western Conference team despite being located in the Eastern time zone. The result is a whole lot of games being played two to three time zones away, which means many 10 PM starts that tend to reduce the number of your fans who can watch the games in their entirety.

So, going forward the league will have four (yet to be named) conferences. The teams will be grouped into these four conferences as follows:

Conference "A"
Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings
Phoenix Coyotes
San Jose Sharks
Vancouver Canucks

Conference "B"
Chicago Blackhawks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets

Conference "C"
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs

Conference "D"
Carolina Hurricanes
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals

Along with the realignment comes some obvious scheduling changes. In the regular season, every team will play every other team twice (once at home and once on the road) regardless of conference. The remaining games will be inter-conference match-ups. In Conferences "C" and "D", which contain seven teams each, each team would play the other teams in the conference six times total (three home, three away). In Conferences "A" and "B", which contain eight teams each, each team would play the other teams in the conference either five or six times (on a rotating basis).

As for the playoffs, the top four teams from each conference would qualify. They would play a 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3 playoff within the conference. The winners of each conference would make up the 4 semi-final teams in a run for the Cup.

I for one am actually really excited for this new alignment. I think the league dealt with the Winnipeg problem in a creative way that helped some other current Western Conference teams with their scheduling gripes as well. The same number of teams will qualify for the playoffs under the new format, and by keeping the first two rounds of the playoffs within each conference I think existing rivalries will be magnified and new rivalries will be built. Geographically this makes a whole lot of sense. I am also happy that most of the classic rivalries (Boston/Montreal, Chicago/Detroit, Philadelphia/New York, etc) have been preserved within the new structure. I love that every team plays every other team both at home and on the road in a given season. This means that NHL fans in every city will have at least one to chance to see all of the league's major stars. Like any proposal, it is not without flaw. One thing I can think of right off the bat is that the teams in Conference "A" and "B" have a 50% chance of making the post-season, while the teams in Conference "C" and "D" have a greater than 50% chance. Overall though, I still like this change.

So, what do you think of the realignment? Does your favorite team benefit, or is it hurt by these changes in your opinion? Finally, what do you think some good names would be for these four new conferences? I'm definitely interested in hearing all of your thoughts on this major change...


the sewingmachineguy said...

I am bummed that the Red Wings are not in the same conference as the Maple Leafs. It's a short drive from Toronto to D-Town.

Drop The Gloves! said...

I will be totally on board if they bring back the old division names.

I think it is an interesting move on the NHL's part, but should make things a little more exciting.

The idea I really like is inspired by Bill Simmons:

16 teams, two conferences, (Canada and US). 8 teams in each, top 4 from both make the playoffs and every Stanley Cup involves a Canadian and US team.

Here are my conferences:
Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Quebec, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa

Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Buffalo.

Done and done.

Dave H said...

Islanders may NEVER make the playoffs again based on this format....

JGBlargh said...

Good enough. Althogh they should have kept the 1-8 rankings. Move Detroit or Nashville to Conference C so A-B and C-D both have 15 teams.
Although keeping the first two playoff rounds in the same conference could heat up some rivalries. That is something the NHL really needs.

Captain Canuck said...

the Bettman division gets off with one helluva sweet deal. While "C" division gets screwed. Is it coincidence that all four teams that said No Way! are from "C" division?
It's clear Bettman hass no idea what the fans really want and caters to his friends and his misguided fascination with bending over for american tv networks.


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