Blog Entry

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Posted on: December 5, 2011 9:31 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 1:50 pm
 

By Brian Stubits

Look what the Winnipeg Jets started.

Realignment is coming to the NHL, and as was predicted, it's of the "total" variety.

Easy but incomplete ideas were floated (swapping either Detroit, Nashville or Columbus with Winnipeg in the Southeast and calling it a day), but in the end it was the big idea that won out. With Gary Bettman pushing it, you knew it would.

Gone are the days of divisions in hockey. The NHL will return to four conferences starting next season (names undetermined as of yet, but you can bet they will likely be historic). Two of the four divisions will have eight teams, two will have seven. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be played entirely within the conference before re-seeding in the third round, or Final Four, if you will. The NHL hasn't said yet how it plans to re-seed at that point, a decision will come later regarding that part.

It will also bring a schedule where every team will play a home and away with every other team.

Here is the proposal that was passed in a little less than an hour and with a 26-4 vote.

I can hear everybody now. Why didn't they just go the easy route? The short answer: politics. Well that and time zones.

"We had a number of clubs that were unhappy with the current state of affairs," commissioner Bettman said at the news conference to announce the realignment.

The Detroit Red Wings have a lot of clout. As an Original Six team who has done a lot of winning, that comes with the territory. They have long wanted to move to the East and have been very vocal about Bettman promising as such. That's complication No. 1 and it's alleviated. The Red Wings now will only play one game at each Western Canada and California arena.

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The same goes for the Blue Jackets, who don't carry the same clout but had the same concerns.

"This is a fantastic night for the Blue Jackets," Blue Jackets president Mike Priest said.

Complication No. 2 was the existence of teams like the Dallas Stars playing their road games two time zones away or in the case of the Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, playing a lot of road games three time zones away. By this grouping, teams are grouped with much more consideration to time zones. So while the idea of an Eastern Conference and Western Conference are gone, the Red Wings and Jackets get their end goal and will play with teams in the Eastern time zone and Central time zone a lot more.

Complication No. 3? Detroit isn't in the Southeast. But you knew that.

So we end up with this layout. There are honestly a lot more positives than negatives in this. The biggest consideration, time zones, was taken care of. Now the teams out West won't feel as big of a disadvantage as they do now. Despite having more teams in their new conferences, it was an easy sell for for the 15 teams that currently call the Western Conference home.

This really does seem like the best solution to please the most teams. The biggest problems I see? First is for the teams in the two eight-team conferences. They face longer odds than the other half of the league to make the postseason.

The second? The only teams that really seemed to get jobbed by the arrangement are the two teams in Florida, the Panthers and Lightning. Not counting each other, their closest division foes are in Buffalo and Boston.

Of course, one benefit to this new design is that it allows for flexibility in the case of the Phoenix Coyotes moving East. It would be as simple as putting them in a seven-team conference with the other Canadian teams if they were to, say, move to Quebec City.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Comments

Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:55 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

As far as playoffs go, I don't see having an extra team in the conference as that big a disadvantage.  Take a situation where one conference of 7 teams is relatively strong all around, while another conference with 8 teams has 5 strong teams and 3 complete scrub teams.  The 7-team conference will beat each other up, trading games all year, and will probably not have as wide a distribution of point levels at the end of the year.  The five non-scrub teams in the 8 team conference will have relatively smoother sailing, and the fifth place team there could easily end up with more points than a stronger 4th place team in the 7-team conference.  Of course this is just one possible scenario, and endless permutations come readily to mind.

What strikes me as more disconcerting is that the teams in the 8-team conferences will not play an equal number of games against each conference opponent.  The teams in the 7-team conferences will play each non-conference team twice, for 46 games (23 non-conference teams, 2 games each).  This leaves 36 conference games spread over their 6 conference opponents, for 6 games each.  The teams in the 8-team conferences, on the other hand, will play 44 non-conference games (22 non-conference teams, 2 games each).  This leaves 38 conference games spread over 7 conference opponents.  So they will play three of the teams in their conference 6 times, while playing the other 4 teams only 5 times.  In an era where we have seen that every point matters at the end of the season, this seems more fundamentally unfair than having an extra team in your conference.  Whether a team makes the playoffs or not could depend on whether it has to play its extra games against Detroit rather than Columbus, or vice versa.

It seems to me that the NHL should worry more about teams having a fair chance to make the playoffs than it does about fans in every city having an opportunity to see every team in the NHL at least once every year.  For those teams in the 8-team conferences, they should play four more conference games (42), and four fewer non-conference games (40).  After all, they have bigger conferences.




Since: Mar 20, 2008
Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:52 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I love everything they are doing here except i would tweek the proposed playoff format. Round 1 keep as they propose, and then reseed with 8 teams instead of 4. You get the benefit of great rivalries in the first round, and you also prevent all the best teams possibly getting knocked out in round 2.

For instance, Let’s say the Caps, Pens and Rangers are 3 of the top 4 NHL teams in the league in a given year( Just random picks as an example). As it stands now, Rangers, Pens and Caps will eliminate eachother in rounds 1 and 2 leaving 1 remaining. Lets say it is the Rangers, Detroit wins theirs, and Vancouver and Toronto. That is your final 4 in a year when Toronto and Vancouver could be considered the leagues 7th/9th best teams. While the early playoff rounds may be interesting, it takes away from the later rounds. How can you argue they are not the 9th best team when they don’t play outside their one little conference in the playoffs till the final 4 and who wants to see that. I'm all for upsets and sometimes we do see it, but i rather them earn it against the top teams then get the benefit of easy divisons

Plus if the Rangers and Pens are 1/2 in reg season, why not see them play in the finals vs each other.

I just want to see the reseeding one round earlier

(Note Ranger fan so said them, this holds true if the top were Vanc, LA and Colo)





Since: Jun 22, 2010
Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:44 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Pretty stupid if you reply to a certain comment there is not reference to that, kind of makes you look like and idiot.



"Why not put Winnepeg with the other Canadian teams?  They could have easily moved Colorado to Detroit's conference and put Winnepeg in with the Canadian teams.  That just don't make sense."



Look at a map and it makes sense.




Since: Aug 28, 2006
Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:43 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Bklyn77,

Toronto and Montreal are in the same time zones as Detroit. Winnipeg and Dallas are in different time zones so your staement makes no sense at all



Since: Oct 8, 2009
Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:43 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Rice,

I knew someone would make that point. My counterpoint is this: It's one thing for New York to make the playoffs over Calgary and Dallas as their records were only marginally better than New York's (1 or 2 points difference). It's another thing entirely for a team that clearly belongs in the playoffs (LA did last season) to get the shaft just because they're in a deep conference. In my example I wasn't just comparing their record to that of the Rangers. There were a total of 5 teams they had a better overall record than that would make the playoffs in that scenario over them (Buffalo, Montreal, Chicago, the Rangers, and Dallas). That's far more significant than the Rangers squeeking into the playoffs last season over a couple of teams with comparable records. And with the schedule being even more balanced next season with each team playing each other at least 1 home and 1 away, the odds of something like this happening are even greater. We need the best teams to make the playoffs. It's good for the fans and good for hockey.



Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:39 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

markg, I understand my idea would break up those rivalries. But as I said, no there's no solution that would make everyone happy and the fact is rivalries have been broken up before when geography and economics dictated it was necessary for the greater good of the league and bringing the Rangers into the Bruins division would re-ignite a classic NHL rivalry.



Since: Jun 22, 2010
Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:35 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

look at a map and it will make sense!



Since: Jan 11, 2008
Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:31 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Plugging in last year's records into this new format shows how teams in the 8 team conferences can get screwed. If this system were in place last season, LA , after a 98 point season (12th in the league overall), would have missed the playoffs while Buffalo, Montreal, Chicago, the Rangers, and Dallas would all be in despite having a worse record overall than the Kings. To me that just doesn't seem fair. Giving those last 4 spots to the teams with the best records overall would keep this from happening. This would have saved LA at the expense of the Rangers who shouldn't have made the playoffs last season anyway with 93 points (18th best in the league).


To KM9K,

While you make a good point, this problem exists within the 2 conference system too. Last year Dallas (95 points) and Calgary (94 points) both missed the playoffs, while NY Rangers (93 points) made the playoffs. The only way to truely make things fair for everyone would be to not have conferences or divisons, just league standing and all teams play each other the same number of times (3 games against each opponent for an 87 game schedule), but we all know that this won't happen.



Since: Oct 8, 2009
Posted on: December 6, 2011 2:07 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

It isn't what I would have done. But it is a workable solution. If I were the league I would put one caveat into the playoff format. Make sure that the last 4 playoff spots (spot #4 in each conference) are given to the 4 teams with the best overall records regardless of what conference they're in. That would alleviate any concerns over the conferences being unbalanced 8, 8, 7, and 7.

Plugging in last year's records into this new format shows how teams in the 8 team conferences can get screwed. If this system were in place last season, LA , after a 98 point season (12th in the league overall), would have missed the playoffs while Buffalo, Montreal, Chicago, the Rangers, and Dallas would all be in despite having a worse record overall than the Kings. To me that just doesn't seem fair. Giving those last 4 spots to the teams with the best records overall would keep this from happening. This would have saved LA at the expense of the Rangers who shouldn't have made the playoffs last season anyway with 93 points (18th best in the league).

Of course there would be some more playoff travel issues. But I can garauntee that teams would be willing to put up with that as long as they can be assured that putting up a good record will get you into the playoffs. So there's my 2 cents.



Since: Jan 1, 2007
Posted on: December 6, 2011 1:48 pm
 

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Love the people assuming it will still be split east/west for the playoffs. Ever heard of the NFL and MLB? They have have East and West in the same conference. Who says they don't put the left half in one bracket and the right half in the other bracket. 15 teams per side.


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