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.


Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: December 6, 2011 12:11 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I was thinking the same thing, there would be the Gordie Howe Conference, the Ted Lindsay Conference, the Alex Delvechio Conference and the Terry Sawchuck Conference! YEEHAW GO RED WINGS!!!!!!

Since: Sep 14, 2006
Posted on: December 6, 2011 12:10 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Now they just need to get rid of 2 teams and it would be perfect.

Since: May 7, 2009
Posted on: December 6, 2011 12:09 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences


Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: December 6, 2011 12:03 pm

Play-offs Changes are a Problem

I can remember how much people complained in the 80's about playing the same 4 teams over and over during the season, and then for two more rounds in the play-offs.  The logic is probably to create more intense rivalries.  I think this kind of logic is similar to the addition of the OT loser point.  The level playing field is getting more and more skewed.  What happens when there is two powerhouses in one 'conference'?  Remember the Winnipeg Jets of the 80's?  Not many people do because they were buried by the Edmonton Oilers dynasty every year.  The other teams in the conference will never see the 3rd round because they have to get by the 'Yankees and Red Sox' first.  Yes, fair may be boring, but it is a shame that there will be some teams out there that will have worse odds at the Cup than others before the season even starts.
 I'm OK with the time zone conference idea, but please give back the existing play-off format.  It is fine the way it is.

Since: Sep 30, 2011
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:59 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

No matter how this played out there would be somebody that was not happy.  I think this is great and should help teams save money on travel expenses.  Far fewer trips coast to coast, keep the schedule top heavy with games in your own coference as it should be.

Since: Aug 28, 2009
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:56 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I suppose it's OK. Just as long as we don't get stuck with a "Clarence Campbell" conference. The naming of them, if any, should be floated by a PR firm to avoid some similar idiocy....

Since: May 22, 2011
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:53 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I like the idea of going to 4 Divisions, but actually Florida and Tampa Bay should of been put in the Atlantic, and Pittsburgh should of been put with the NorthEast teams along with Columbus and that would of solved everything. 15 teams in each conference. I don't care about Detroit complaining, they are further West than Columbus....Overall the NHL did NOT get this right as some have suggested.

Since: May 7, 2009
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:52 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences


Since: Nov 26, 2006
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:48 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

CONFERENCE A = Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Florida = EASIEST CONFERENCE

CONFERENCE B = Detroit, Chicago, St Louis, Minnestota, Nashville, Columbus, Winnipeg, Dallas = 2nd EASIEST

CONFERENCE C = Vancouver, Los Angeles, Anahiem, San Jose, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado, Phoenix = 2ND TOUGHEST

CONFERENCE D = Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, NJ Devils, Washington, Carolina = TOUGHEST

Conference A is the easiest based upon this season so far because Boston is the only legit Cup contender in the group so far. Florida is having a nice year but I don't see them winning a playoffs series, Ottawa/Toronto/Tampa/Buffalo all seem to be mediocre teams so far that need to show something over the last 55 games to be considered contenders.

Conference B is top heavy with Detroit, Chicago, Nashville all being serious contenders. Minnesota is a wild card team in that I don't see them keeping up this pace for the entire season. If they do, obviously this conference becomes #2 overall. Columbus, Winnipeg, St Louis are not that good at all.

Conference C has 3 legit Cup contenders this year in Van, LA, and SJ.  Team not far behind, maye 1 or 2 years; Edmonton could cause damage but might be to young still this season. Colorado and Anahiem are a disaster this season and Phoenix is a borderline team that will fight for 4th or 5th with Edmonton.

Conference D is loaded with Philly, Pitt, NYR as 3 of the top contenders so far this season. Washington went from being #1 overall early in year to not knowing hwat is going on, but they can stil be dangerous, NJD are a borderline team that has a lot of questions. Carolina and Islanders seem to be bottom feeders again this year but have a ton of young talent. Giving this conference the toughest rank due to Washington as the #4 seed. I think Washington is better than Edmonton as a #4 seed in Conference C.

***** This analysis is based upon this year so far *****

Since: Nov 10, 2008
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:39 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

You must be young if you don't remember the old Patrick and Adams divisions.

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