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: May 7, 2008
Posted on: December 6, 2011 8:57 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

TRESEDAILY, would you like to explain why the Pens can't beat the Wings in the finals anymore?  The only teams they can't beat in the finals would be the teams in their conference unless I'm completely missunderstanding things.  In the first round the Pens will be playing 1 of the other 6 teams in their conference every year and in the second they will be playing 1 of the other 5 teams in their conference.  After that they will be down to 4 teams and it's yet to be determined how they will be seeded.

Since: Jul 2, 2009
Posted on: December 6, 2011 8:57 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Not a fan.  I dont like where they have Minnesota. 

Since: Jan 16, 2008
Posted on: December 6, 2011 8:53 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I'm not a huge hockey follower, so maybe a few of you can explain (maybe I'm right...don't know). The LA div. geographically makes perfect sense with all 7 teams, but then you jump over to the others and they don't. I forget which it was, but montreal and tampa? Why not put the teams closer, which would create more rivalries? Swap NY and NJ for tampa and the team below...etc. Agree?

Since: Apr 21, 2011
Posted on: December 6, 2011 8:47 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I think if there were a Midwest with DET, CHI, MIN, WIN, BUF, TOR and OTT.  an East with PHI, PIT, NYR, NYI, NJ, MON and BOS, and a South with FL, TB, WASH, CAR, DAL, NASH, STL, it would be more geographically consistent.

Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: December 6, 2011 8:26 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

This actually works better for the Panthers and Lightning. I would rather see my Lightning play the bruins, sabres, and leafs as opposed to the hurricanes, Jets, capitals.

Since: Jan 1, 2007
Posted on: December 6, 2011 7:26 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I admit, I do like some of the realignment and geographics of things...I will say though that I do not like having the 2 7's and 2 8's and each conference automatically sending 4 teams.  Half of the teams will make it in 2 conferences, while more than half will make it in the other.  It is quite possible that teams with sub .500 records could go to the playoffs while more deserving teams will be sent home.  Look at the NBA, the Eastern conference year in and year out sends teams to the playoffs with sub .500 records to the playoffs as they clearly shouldn't be there...the Western conference see's teams with 45+ wins not make it even though they clearly should be a part of the equation.  Perhaps the NHL could send 3 teams from each conference and then the next 4 teams go in based off of the points system?

Yea, because the NHL is going to reduce the playoffs from 16 to 10 teams. And the below .500 teams and above .500 teams in the East and West in the playoffs has nothing to do with the number of teams in the conference; the NBA has 15 apiece. It has to do the fact the East has more weak teams so even the bad West teams pound on many of those teams 30 times a year.

Since: Mar 13, 2008
Posted on: December 6, 2011 7:26 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

This suck! The Penguins won't be able to beat the Wings in the finals anymore.Frown

Since: Nov 20, 2007
Posted on: December 6, 2011 7:13 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Love it. Just like the old days.

Since: Oct 13, 2010
Posted on: December 6, 2011 7:00 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

So the NHL is giving up trying to msake hockey work in the South. Atlanta is gone, and now Tampa and Florida stuck in a northern conference, Bettman finally gets his real wish pf abandoning hockey down south.

Since: Dec 6, 2006
Posted on: December 6, 2011 6:31 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Your points are decent, but I think that the travel issues in parts 3 and 5 are a bigger deal than you think. I live in Chicago, and I am friends with a couple of the players. Guys that have played for East coast teams as well as playing for the Hawks all say to a man, playing in the west is brutal on them... The travel times in the East are almost all under an hour, hour and a half tops, Chicago to Vancouver, LA, Phoenix are all 4+ hour flights, and that accounts for almost 25 to 30 games as it is now, the new alignment will make travel MUCH easier on everyone

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