The NHL's New Realignment Plan
Otherwise known as, getting the Winnipeg Jets into the appropriate division and conference!
As of right now the NHL has the following plan to divide the league into four conferences, thus eliminating the East and West as we know it.
Western Conference includes: Los Angeles, San Jose, Anaheim, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix and Colorado.
Central Conference includes: Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas, Minnesota and Winnipeg.
Eastern Conference includes: Florida, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal and Boston.
Atlantic Conference includes: Carolina, Washington, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Also, it seems as if the proposal includes that the first two rounds of the playoffs will be played between the conferences. I am not so sure that is a great idea for example if one conference is much weaker than another.
Take the East and Atlantic at the moment. The East is filled with teams that are unproven or have not been regarded as perennial powerhouses compared to the Atlantic that includes the Flyers, Penguins, Devils and Rangers. Two of those four teams will be out of the playoffs early while the two that survive face Boston and then some team who barely gets by. Perhaps than can be evened out with the Florida teams who should be kept in the same conference as Carolina and Washington.
I look at the West and Central as two conferences in which for at least the moment does not seem to matter as all those teams seem equally strong enough to make a run. Well not everybody (Columbus). Close though!
In my opinion, when it comes to the playoffs, it really doesn't matter who you play. To be the best, you must beat the best. I just don't want to see the NHL turn into Major League Baseball with their silly schedules and playoff formats.
I see divisions, conferences, whatever you want to call them for travel purposes only. If the NHL wants those teams in the same conferences to play each other a little more, then so be it. It does not need to turn into a baseball-like schedule when teams in each division play each other 18 times during a season. Granted, that is because of a stupid 162 game schedule and too many teams.
When it comes to hockey, there is no reason for each team to not play at least one game in every city. Someone made the comment somewhere this past week, that Russian and KHL teams sometimes must travel over 1,000 miles to play another team. Players in the NHL really do not seem to realize how good they have it. Thus, one big reason for another lockout we had to endure.
Here is my proposal for the new realignment plan:
Western Conference... Keep the two conferences, with fifteen teams in each.
Pacific Division> Nothing to change here really. This is one division that can benefit from a more division-friendly schedule.
4. San Jose
5. Los Angeles
Central Division> I have heard several ideas of moving one of these teams to the Eastern Conference. I argue the fact that Detroit is one of them, due to the fact the NHL shouldn't split the Blackhawks and Red Wings rivalry. Plus, that would leave just one original six team in the West and that does not make sense. I feel that the Nashville Predators are more suited for the West instead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are really more suited for the East if anything.
3. St. Louis
Northeast Division> We will be adding the Columbus Blue Jackets into the East. It makes most sense when it comes to geography and the Jackets' style of play. But also, moving some teams around in a crowded eastern seaboard of teams. I believe that the New York area teams should be somewhat kept together as well as the Pennsylvania teams. But by doing that, the Rangers become the only original six team in their division.
Atlantic Division> Like I said before, the Florida teams should be kept in the same division as Washington and at least Carolina. This also helps balance the shift of power in the east. I think that when it comes to the Rangers, people won't mind if they are the only original six team in this division. Their rivalry with the Devils, Flyers and Islanders are probably most important to them and the owners. Unlike the idea of the Red Wings and Blackhawks splitting conferences, the Rangers will still be in the same conference as Montreal, Toronto and Boston.
2. Tampa Bay
5. NY Rangers
6. NY Islanders
7. New Jersey
Now to the schedules!
Like I said before, there is no reason for each team to not play each other at least once home and away. This applies mainly to the opposite conference teams east vs. west.
Let's take a look at this from Toronto's perspective:
• 30 Inter-Conference Games (15*2)...The Leafs would play 1 home and 1 away game against each of the Western Conference teams. The current NHL schedule has all seven Canadian teams playing each other home and away. I say big deal. A Toronto-Calgary or Toronto-Vancouver rivalry is not and will never be the same as Toronto-Chicago or Toronto-Detroit. Therefore, that idea needs to be scratched, because each team will face each other once home and once away as it is. Why double up on the Canadian teams only? I think the Original Six is more important than the Canadian Seven idea.
• 24 Divisional Games (6*4)...The Leafs would play every team in its division twice at home and twice on the road.
• 28 Non-Divisional Conference Games...With the eight-team Atlantic Division, there is not enough room to play each team twice at home and twice on the road. Therefore, those games will need 1 less game against. The Atlantic can be split up as such: Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Washington...followed by NYI, NYR, New Jersey and Philadelphia. The NHL can alternate season to season which of the two groups of four the Leafs play 1 less against. The same thing would be true for each Central Division team. The Pacific can also be divided up for scheduling purposes; LA, San Jose, Anaheim and Phoenix...followed by Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado.
In the Eastern Conference, this type of schedule should not be a factor. With the Leafs playing four more games than within its own division, it shouldn't matter because of most of the teams being packed together in the region. Only the Florida teams and Carolina need to travel a little bit, but there is nothing the league can do about that geographically. In the playoffs is where these rivalries will be alive and well.
Now, looking at this from the LA Kings perspective:
• 30 Inter-Conference Games (15*2)...The Kings would play 1 home and 1 away game against each of the Eastern Conference teams.
• 28 Divisional Games (7*4)...The Kings will play each team in its eight-team division twice at home and twice on the road.
• 24 Non-Divisional Conference Games...The Kings would play most Central Division teams twice home and twice away, but that would leave four games over the 82 game schedule. It would have to play four less games against four different teams from season to season.
Once again, the rivalries will be alive and well throughout the playoff rounds in the years to come!
My proposal is also a work in progress, but allows some structure to the NHL that should be kept in the future. Moreover, I simply do not want the NHL to turn into the MLB as far as scheduling is concerned. I think many hockey fans both in Canada and United States would agree with me.
I know many fans will not be too happy with the new playoff format proposal, but it still should not matter too much who you play. To be the best, you must beat the best. Strength of divisions will always circulate as the years go by. Someday the Flyers, Penguins, Sharks, 'Hawks, Red Wings, etc., will all have down years. Right now it may not seen like so, but those days will come.
My idea for a playoff format would have the top four teams in each division be seeded 1 through 4. The NHL can either have those teams play a best of seven in a #1 vs. #4 and #2 vs. #3 format. Then the winners advance to play for the division championship. After those are settled, we would be left with four teams, one from each division. The team with the highest point totals from the regular season be seeded #1 and then so on. Again, after the reseeding, the #1 team faces the #4 seed, and #2 vs. #3 in a best of seven. Then, the Stanley Cup finals would feature two teams from one of the four divisions in a best of seven. So, in a way, you would still get two of the best teams from each region, conference or division squaring off in the end.
That is how fair I see it at this point. It really isn't that hard to figure out, so let's hope the NHL does not try to take this realignment plan that far. Please, please, please do not turn the NHL into MLB!
---I will be back tomorrow after the Leafs-Lightning game as I will recap the entire Florida trip into one blog. I just had to say something about tonight's game...what a great road victory for the Maple Leafs and another shutout for Ben Scrivens, making 37 saves...Sunrise looked like Toronto South tonight with all the Leaf fans in attendance. The Panthers seem to really be hurting down there. Why do they have a team in Southern Florida to begin with?