March 4, 2013 by ussportsfanuk
The NHL have recently revealed their latest plans for realignment and it has met with mixed views. So I have been inspired to have another go at a realignment plan as, although some feel the new NHL plan is better than the previous plan, it would appear from reading blogs and message boards that many fans are still not happy with it and neither are some players.
This plan is trying to even out travelling in terms of distance and across time zones. It also attempts to keep together the main rivalries that exist in the NHL as well as finding a solution to the extra travel for some teams when it gets to the playoffs.
For this plan there are four Conferences instead of two. One Conference will consist of the Pacific and Mountain time zone teams and the other three Conferences each consist of five or six Eastern time zone teams and two Central time zone teams. The Conferences would look like this:
Smythe or Western Conference: Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes
8 team Conference. 4 Pacific time zone, 4 Mountain time zone.
This consists of the 8 teams west of the Central time zone and is made up of 4 teams each from the current Pacific and Northwest Divisions. This instantly retains the existing division rivalries, keeps 3 of the Canadian teams together and gives the potential for new rivalries between, for example, the Sharks and Canucks.
Adams or Northern Conference: Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild
7 team Conference. 5 Eastern time zone, 2 Central time zone.
This conference is mainly made up of the existing Northeast Division so it retains those rivalries and in particular those between three of the Original Six, the Bruins, Canadiens and Maple Leafs. It also keeps the ‘Battle of Ontario’. Added to this are the Jets who would have a geographical rival in the Wild and also would have rivalries with three other Canadian teams instead of being the only one in their division in the recent NHL plan. There is also potential for a nice rivalry to develop between two of the most passionate US hockey fan bases, Boston and Minnesota.
Patrick or Eastern Conference: Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues
8 team Conference. 6 Eastern time zone, 2 Central time zone.
This consists of the very competitive existing Atlantic Division so would retain all those rivalries, including the two Pennsylvania teams. Added to this are three old rivals from the current Central Division, the Red Wings, Blackhawks and Blues. This alignment would keep one of the oldest rivalries, the Red Wings and Blackhawks which would be lost in the recent NHL plan, plus would give those two Original Six members a further Original Six rival in the Rangers. It would also feature match ups between teams that have competed in some of the most recent Stanley Cup Finals.
Norris or Southern Conference: Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars
7 team Conference. 5 Eastern time zone, 2 Central time zone.
This conference consists mainly of 4 teams from the current Southeast Division, retaining those rivalries and also means that the Lightning and Panthers would not be having to travel to the Northeast for the majority of their divisional road games. Added are two rivals from the current Central Division and the Stars, who would no longer have to play the majority of their divisional games two time zones away from their own.
The schedule format would be that teams in the 7 team Conferences play each other 6 times (36 games) and in 8 team Conferences they would play 4 teams 5 times and 3 teams 6 times (38 games). The remaining games would be made up by teams playing each of the teams outside of their Conference twice giving each team a total of 82 games. Much has been made about the Red Wings travel and playing in other time zones. In this plan they would play 64-66 games in the Eastern time zone, 8-10 in the Central time zone, 4 in the Mountain time zone and 4 in the Pacific time zone. This would actually be virtually identical for all Eastern time zone teams so would therefore even out the travel.
As for the playoffs, the top four teams in each Conference would advance. The first two rounds would be played within the Conferences (1 vs 4, 2 vs 3 and then the winners vs each other) with one team from each then advancing as the Conference Champion. At this stage the four Conference Champions would then be reseeded and the Stanley Cup semi-finals would be 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3. By doing this it means that any Eastern or Central time zone may have to play a Pacific or Mountain time zone team. This again evens out the potential travel situation and means it would not have to be teams like the Red Wings that would play the Western team, as that was another issue raised. By reseeding the teams for the semi-finals it also means that teams from any of the four Conferences could meet in the Stanley Cup Final. This would produce the possibility of Finals like the Bruins vs the Rangers, the Canadiens vs the Flyers, the Penguins vs the Capitals, the Canucks vs the Blackhawks and the Red Wings vs the Sharks, all of which are not possible in the current alignment and most of which would not be possible in the proposed new NHL alignment.
A couple more things to mention regarding this plan. With this alignment it should also be more flexible should any teams relocate or there is expansion and should therefore avoid the need for further major realignment. This is something that people have said may not be the case with the new realignment proposed by the NHL. Also, should the NHL decide they needed more teams to draw in bigger crowds in the Southern Conference then it could be possible to switch the Penguins and Flyers to that Conference and the Blue Jackets to the Eastern Conference, although it seems better to keep them in the Conferences mentioned originally. Finally, with regards playoff places, it has been mentioned by some that those in 8 team Conferences would be at a disadvantage in trying to qualify for the playoffs. If this is still a problem then a fifth team could qualify from 8 team Conferences (leaving each Conference with 3 non qualifying teams) and number 4 could play number 5 in a maximum 3 game wild card series over a maximum of 4 nights to start the playoffs. The winner of that series would then go on to meet the number 1 seed in their Conference.
So that is my latest plan! I hope it all makes sense and I would be really interested to hear what people think of it.