January 10, 2013 by ussportsfanuk
Following on from Part 1 where I looked at a new Campbell Conference with the Norris Division and Smythe Division, this part will look at the Wales Conference containing the Adams Division and Patrick Division.
This part of the realignment plan has proved to be more difficult. With so many teams in the Eastern part of the US and Canada it seemed harder to find a suitable geographic split for less travel, while at the same time trying to not break up old rivalries. I initially considered adding the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators to the existing Atlantic Division and then having the remaining four teams from the Northeast and Southeast Divisions together in one division (the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets both having been moved to the Campbell Conference). This means that, like the NHL plan, the Florida teams would still be in the same division as the Boston Bruins as well as two Canadian teams which just doesn’t seem to fit and proved unpopular in the NHL plan. I then looked at adding Columbus, Nashville and the Pittsburgh Penguins to the four Northeast teams but this would split the Penguins from the Philadelphia Flyers. This would be far from ideal as this rivalry has become extremely intense, especially after last season’s playoffs.
So there didn’t seem to be an ideal plan, especially in the format that the NHL wanted the schedule and Playoff schedule to take. Also in the NHL format, the New York Rangers would only play 10 games against the other five Original Six teams! This then produced an idea that maybe the schedule could take advantage of the Wales Conference teams being closer geographically and produce a different schedule format from that of the Campbell Conference. This would allow teams in the same division to still meet the most over the season, but there would be an additional ‘Conference’ game than the Campbell Conference teams would play. Basing the plan on that format has meant the following teams could be in the Adams Division and the Patrick Division.
Adams Division: Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils.
Just like the Norris Division in this plan, the Adams Division would have three of the Original Six in it. This would give the Rangers additional games against Original Six teams, as well as creating strong divisional rivalry against the Bruins and the Canadiens. This would hopefully compensate them for lost games against the Flyers and Penguins. They also keep their closest geographical rivals, the Devils and Islanders. Those two teams obviously also benefit from additional games against the Bruins and the Canadiens. There is also the benefit of creating a division rivalry between teams from Boston and New York, two cities that have arguably the most heated city rivalry in sport. Obviously, the huge rivalry between the Bruins and the Canadiens is maintained and they keep existing divisional rivals, the Senators and the Sabres. The Senators would still have a Canadian opponent and the Sabres would then have two in-state divisional rivals to compete with. In terms of divisional games, in this seven team division, each team would play the others four times with a fifth game against four of the teams giving a total of 28 divisional games. It could be formatted so that the same teams meet for the fifth games each year to maximise some of the rivalries, for example the Bruins could always play their extra games against the Canadiens, Rangers, Sabres and Islanders and the Rangers would always play additional games against the Bruins, Canadiens, Islanders and Devils.
Patrick Division: Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers.
The state rivalry between the Flyers and Penguins is obviously maintained but they have obviously lost their divisional games against the Rangers (although they would still meet them three times a season in this plan). The return of the Capitals to the division would hopefully partially make up for some of the lost games against the Rangers. The current Southeast Division teams would keep their division rivalries and would have a new ‘southern’ rival in the Predators. The Predators and the Blue Jackets keep their division rivalry and games against the Penguins, Flyers and Capitals could make up for those lost from their current division. The Blue Jackets could also form a very interesting rivalry with the Penguins, the team they are closest to geographically. In this format, in this eight team division, each team would play the others in their division four times with a fifth game against three of the teams, giving a total of 31 divisional games. Again, a format could be set so that the same teams always meet in the fifth games to help maintain existing rivalries while also building new ones.
Although the schedule would be discussed more in the next part, I should mention that, with 3 games against Conference rivals, each team in the Wales Conference would play 52 games in their Conference, just as in the Campbell Conference. The smaller area between the teams in this Conference allows this scheduling. It would also help to even out the travel distances for the teams in this Conference in comparison to the Campbell Conference. Another part of this plan was to consider the possibility of a team relocating without too much disruption to the league, which is why I have only put seven teams in the Adams Division. This is because the most likely, and arguably the best, candidate is Quebec. If this were to happen then the league shouldn’t need to have a major realignment again.
So that is part 2 of the realignment plan! Part 3 will look at the schedule and also the playoffs, which again could have some difference between the two conferences.
I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this plan, in particular the set up of the divisions and whether a different schedule between Conferences could work.