As you may have heard the NHL has announced realignment into four conferences which consist of:
1) Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
2) Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
3) Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
4) Carolina, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
The playoffs will be within the conference, as 1st place will play 4th and 2nd will play 3rd. The two winners will meet to determine who moves onto the final four, where the remaining teams reportedly will be reseeded. This could lead to an “all-East” or “all-West” Stanley Cup Final.
Fans of rivalries will love the new playoff format, but detractors point out that seeing a team six times in the regular season and then again for two series in the playoffs could get tiresome. The league had this set up from 1982 to 1993.
Columbus, Detroit and Dallas
Both Columbus and Detroit lobbied to move to the Eastern Conference in order to lessen travel and to give their fans more games that started at a decent hour. Neither moved into a conference from the former East, but both teams got what they wanted. They will only play eight games outside of the Eastern or Central time zone. Dallas also moves from the Pacific (which their closest division mate was Phoenix, 895 air miles away) to join Columbus, Detroit and friends. They now have four division teams closer than Phoenix.
With the new schedule of every team hosting every other team, NHL fans will get to see more teams come to their building each year. Sidney Crosby will visit every building, as will Jonathan Toews. It also makes planning road trips easier, as fans won’t have to play the guessing game on which cities their favorite teams will visit during the upcoming season.
Cities like Hamilton, Kansas City, Quebec, Seattle, etc.
With 16 teams in the former West and 14 in the former East, it leaves the door open for two possibilities. First, with the uncertainty of Phoenix, if they happen to move East, a both sides will have 15 teams. But secondly, (and maybe more importantly) it raises the possibility of expansion to 32 teams, giving each conference eight teams. Obviously this is looking deep into the future, but the door is still open for this to happen.
Florida and Tampa Bay
The biggest part of realignment that makes no sense places these teams with the current Northeast. Both teams will have to pass over cities out of conference to get to in-conference teams. It’s like they are an isolated island from the other five teams.
Teams like Carolina, NY Islanders and Winnipeg
Really think any of these teams will be able to crack the top four in their conference any time soon? Obviously having the “top four” idea makes it more difficult. Under the current format, teams could finish fifth in their division and still make the playoffs as long as they were in the top eight. It doesn’t happen often, but the possibility is still there. In the new system, a fourth place team in a weaker conference will make the playoffs while a stronger conference’s fifth place team will not.
For example, Boston will only play Philadelphia or the Rangers twice a season. Same goes for Chicago and Vancouver. The new schedule will put emphasis on intraconference rivalries, but will lessen other rivalries.
What happens to the Wales and Campbell Trophies?
Will they be presented to the winner of one of the semi-finals, essentially making it possible to win both in back to back years? Will each conference get a trophy, forcing two new ones to be created?
What will the conferences be named?
Will they bring back names like the Patrick and Norris? Will names be updated to reflect more recent greats like Gretzky and Orr? Will they try to stay geographic?