With the now Winnipeg Jets being stuck in the Southeast Division, you had to figure that some sort of realignment would happen soon. The NHL announced yesterday that the governors had approved the NHL's new plan for realignment which could take effect as early as next season. Instead of two conferences and six divisions, the league will be separated into four different conferences. The teams will be divided as such:
Conference A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Conference B: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Conference C: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Conference D: Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Each team will play their conference opponents six times a year (three at home, three on the road) and they will also play every other team once at home and once on the road. This really helps ease the travel issues with some Western teams (namely Minnesota, Detroit, Columbus & Nashville), especially with the way the new conferences are set up. The other change made was a new playoff format where the top four teams from each conference will face each other in the playoffs (1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3) with the winners facing each other in the next round and then the remaining two teams will play for the Cup. How the semi-finals will be seeded will be decided later and there is a possibility we could see two teams from the East or West playing each other in the post-season.
- I like the new conferences. It makes sense geographically for everything aside from Conference C but I'll touch on that later. Minnesota really needed to be placed in a difference conference to suit them geographically and they got it. The same also applies to Dallas who also had travel issues.
- The two Florida teams in Conference C makes sense because those two arenas will get a lot of ticket sales when Montreal, Toronto, etc. visit them. It does create a problem with them in regards to traveling, though.
- One thing I do not understand with this realignment is keeping Detroit and Columbus out West. They won't have to travel as much as they did before but there's an uneven number of teams in the East and West now despite there being two teams in the Eastern Time Zone in one of the two Western Conferences. That just doesn't make sense to me.
- I am not a fan of the new playoff format at all, especially with the way the new divisions are set-up. The Western teams are going to save money by not having to travel so much but they will pay for it come playoff time. It's still uncertain if they will keep the "East/West" monikers but if they do, then there's 8 out of 16 teams in the West going for a playoff spot and 8 out of only 14 teams in the East. A below average team in the Eastern conference can make the playoffs while a good team in the West will be left out. Not only that, but this "conference playoff" idea is just silly to me. I get that they want the "best" teams to make it in but if you only allow four teams from a conference, that is going to lave a lot of good teams out of the post-season while a decent team from a weak division can get in.
Take Conference A for example, let's say that Edmonton, LA, San Jose and Vancouver all get in but Phoenix has 90-something points and is left out. Meanwhile, you could have a team like Toronto or Ottawa with 80-something points make the playoffs and win their division because they play weaker opponents. I don't understand the point of the regular season and playing six conference games if you are going to make them face each other again in the playoffs.
- From Carolina's perspective, this is going to be a tough challenge. If they decide to keep the new playoff rules, then the Canes will be forced to compete with Philly, Washington, Pittsburgh, New Jersey AND New York to even get close to the playoffs. That is some tough competition but this is my response to that is "I, for one, welcome our new Atlantic overlords."
- Supposedly they made the conferences the way they are to make it easier to add an expansion team. The NHL has a competitive disadvantage even with the cap so I don't think this is a good idea. If a team like Phoenix were to move then that would make things easier but I still believe the odds of that happening are slim.
- This is definitely going to take some getting used to and I think there's a few things that need to be ironed out but I do like the new conferences.