Blog Entry

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

Posted on: June 26, 2011 4:02 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2011 7:18 pm
 

We know realignment is coming, the question that has lingered, however, is in what shape will it come? Reports are starting to hint it will be vastly different, if nothing else.

Word started to come out (the Sporting News) of the draft in Minnesota that commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL executives would like to see a four-division layout instead of the current six. We know Winnipeg, the driving force behind the realignment, will be moving to the Western Conference after this season. But to fill the void in the East, there are three teams seeking to make the move: Detroit, Columbus and Nashville.

The plan is expected to be finalized during December's Board of Governors meeting.

“I’m just happy we’re discussing it. Maybe there’s a way for Detroit and Columbus to get in the East,” said Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson. “I’m glad we’re all open to it. We’ll see where it all goes.”

Howson said the Blue Jackets plan a proposal that would place Columbus in the Eastern Conference. He said he hopes the league would be open to the idea of 16 teams in one conference and 14 in the other.

“We’re going to work something up over the summer and see if it has any legs,” Howson said.

Part of the restructuring would also involve changing the layout of the schedule. For the past few seasons the NHL has featured unbalanced schedules, meaning no guarantees to play each team home and away every season. But the new idea would return to a balanced format where all teams play every other team at least twice, guaranteeing a home and road game against every opponent, especially nice for displaced fans. Red Wings fan in Carolina? Rangers diehard in Los Angeles? Start planning now.

The way the playoffs would work would feature the top four teams in each division moving on. The first round would be only divisional battles, then they re-seed for the conference semifinals. This would likely go a lot further in trying to establish division rivalries than the unbalanced schedule with the intensity of playoff games being the driving force behind most of the great grudges in history.

There's still a lot to be discussed, but this seems the most logical plan at the moment. First the NHL will have to be OK with having 16 teams in the East, 14 in the West. Obviously some teams in the East wouldn't be too happy their foes in the West have a greater mathematical chance to get in the playoffs. That could be a hard hurdle to clear. Chicago likely wouldn't enjoy being the only Original Six team in the West and losing its big rival in Detroit.

And while it certainly would not happen anytime soon, you have to wonder when the Westward expansion question would arise. With two more franchises in the West, you'd have balance and everybody is happy ... except for those who hate the idea of more expansion. Which is just about every hockey fan out there. Instead of having new teams in Kansas City and Milwaukee (seriously, why doesn't it have a team?), Seattle or maybe even Salt Lake City, I'd venture about 90 percent of fans would prefer the unbalanced conferences, with the dissenting 10 percent coming from the possible expansion cities.

The expected layout would be based on time zones primarily. Here's what the divisions would likely be.

West

Pacific: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix

Central: Winnipeg, Minnesota, Colorado, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas

East

North: Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey

South: Detroit, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida

Surely there are better division names so we don't have the awkward things like Detroit and Pittsburgh being in the "South." I'm sure there'd be a lot of sentiment for the old Norris and Adams Divisions. How would you lay out the divisions?

-- Brian Stubits

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl on Twitter or @BrianStubitsNHL

Comments
kkjyywlpo
Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 16, 2011 8:39 am
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Since: Oct 5, 2011
Posted on: October 5, 2011 1:18 am
 

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

To me it would make more sense to divide the league into a North and a South conference.  That way each team would have closer to even travel and changing of time zones.  My proposed setup would be:

North Conference

West: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado, Winnipeg
Central: Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Buffalo
East: Ottawa, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, Montreal, Boston

South Conference

West: San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Dallas
Central: St Louis, Nashville, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia
East: Tampa Bay, Florida, Carolina, Washington, New Jersey


Possibly swapping Colorado and San Jose in the west divisions to have two Pacific Time and two Mountain Time teams in each conference (even though Colorado is north of San Jose).  And Philly could go to the east and Tampa to the central to be more geographically correct (but I went with keeping the Pennsylvania and Florida rivalries together).

This arrangement also doesn't require a lot of changes from today's league setup:

Northwest Division: Winnipeg replaces Minnesota

Pacific Division (becomes Southwest Division): Teams unchanged (unless San Jose swaps with Colorado)

Central Division (becomes Southcentral Division): Pittsburgh and Philadelphia replace Chicago and Detroit

Northeast Division: New York Rangers and Islanders replace Toronto and Buffalo

Southeast Division: New Jersey replaces Winnipeg (was Atlanta)

Atlantic Division (becomes new Northcentral Division): Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto and Buffalo make up new division to replace New York Rangers and Islanders, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New Jersey.


If they must go to a four-division setup, I still think a North-South split would make more sense.  That way they could keep 15 teams in each conference (instead of a 16-14 split), with a seven-team Western division in each and an eight-team Eastern division in each:

North Conference

West: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago
East: Detroit, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, Montreal, Boston

South Conference

West: San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Dallas, St Louis, Nashville
East: Columbus, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Florida, Carolina, Washington, Philadelphia, New Jersey

Thoughts?




Since: Nov 9, 2008
Posted on: July 3, 2011 11:03 am
 

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

I wouldn't be a fan of having 12 teams reach the playoffs, as some comments have suggested, but if that did happen, I would prefer a format with no byes. Perhaps, have a 15 game mini-season between the six playoff qualifiers in each conference: 3 games against each team, with the higher seeded team hosting two of those games (so the #1 seed would play 10 of 15 games at home, while the #6 team would play only 5). The top two teams advance to the conference finals (with an extra tie-breaker games, if needed).

So, the "mini-season" (15 games) would replace the first two round of the current format (14 games). However, given the extra traveling, it would probably take a week or two longer to complete.

If this playoff format were in place during the most recent season, the Vancouver Canucks mini-season might look something like this:

vs. #2 San Jose
vs. #4 Anaheim
at #3 Detroit
at #5 Nashille
vs. #6 Phoenix
vs. #2 San Jose
at #4 Anaheim
vs. #3 Detroit
vs. #5 Nashille
at #6 Phoenix
at #2 San Jose
vs. #4 Anaheim
vs. #3 Detroit
vs. #4 Nashille
vs. #6 Phoenix




Since: Jun 20, 2011
Posted on: June 30, 2011 12:05 pm
 

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

Two options:

Make the first round shorter: Best of 3 or 5

Reduce the number of playoff teams to 8: then you don't have to worry about byes



Since: Mar 8, 2007
Posted on: June 29, 2011 2:39 pm
 

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

12 Teams doesn't work when you play 7 Game Series. You can't give byes and have teams sitting out for a couple of weeks. Football is only one game a week, so its a differnt dynamic. Heck, 16 teams used to make it when there were only 21 teams, so close to 50% isn't all that bad.



Since: Apr 7, 2011
Posted on: June 29, 2011 1:29 pm
 

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

I would change it up a tad...but eliminate conference play.


WEST (Smythe) Edm, Calg, Van, Phx*, Col, SJ, LA, Ana,


Mid-West (Norris) Win, Minny, Nash, St. Louis, Chi, Dal, Det (sorry Wings)


North East (Adams)  Mtl, Ott, Bos, Tor, Buff, Columbus, Pitt


South East (Patrick) Fla, TB, Car, Wash, Philly, NYR, NYI, NJ


7 team divisions play each division team 6 times with a home and home with all other teams.


8 team divisions play each 38 division games with 4 teams played 5 times (switching the 3 home games every yr) with 3 extra division games. (rotate the 6 game opponents every yr)


NO Conference play... They play divisional playoffs with the winners facing off in the final 4. They could change the division brackets each year so one year the west plays the NE the next year they switch it again...ect.


Since the all-star game has no conferences any longer they could do this anyway they want to appease many more teams. Plus it would be very cool to see the Hawks and Leafs or the Wings and Habs play in a semi-final series.  
 


* when they finally decide to give up on Phx they should move them to Seattle which would make life much easier on the Canucks Sharks, Flames, and Oilers. It's a empty NBA market that the NHL should snatch up. Sorry Quebec but Seattle right now makes more sense as far as location goes.


        
;     &nbs
p;     &nb
sp; 



Since: Jun 20, 2011
Posted on: June 28, 2011 4:43 pm
 

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

If they are going to change anything, can they please reduce the number of playoff teams. It makes the regular season almost completly meaningless when 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs. I think the NFL has it right with 12, there is no need to have more teams then that.



Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: June 27, 2011 9:17 pm
 

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

Why not just have an East and West Conference [like in the 60's and 70's after the first few rounds of expansion] with 15 teams in each - the top 8 in each Conference make the playoffs.

Otherwise, I'd prefer contraction to 28 teams [I'd actually prefer 24, but what are you gonna do?] to expansion to get things evened out. 



Since: Mar 15, 2011
Posted on: June 27, 2011 8:33 pm
 

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

My suggestion: dump Phoenix and Columbus and then switch Colorado to the Pacific, Detroit to the Central, New Jersey to South.   



Since: Jun 27, 2011
Posted on: June 27, 2011 8:12 pm
 

Reports: NHL looking at four-division realignment

I don't like the idea of unbalanced conferences. Baseball is finally getting around to correcting that problem, so why does the NHL want to create an imbalance they'll likely try to correct in a few years anyway, like with the unbalanced schedule. Keep Detriot in west, preserving balance and the rivalry with Chicago.


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