Well that didn’t take long but there is another rumor in the never ending realignment saga. The news was reported by Elliotte Friedman on Hockey Night in Canada last night. The plan features some of the same elements from last year and some new ones.
Some of the elements that remained from last year’s proposed realignment were the four conference setup which will have two seven team conferences and two eight team conferences.
In addition, Winnipeg will be moved to a conference that won’t see them traveling 2,000 miles to play a division rival.
In exchange for Winnipeg moving to the west, the NHL has proposed moving both Columbus and Detroit to the Eastern Conferences.
Here is the proposed setup as reported by Friedman last night.
Conference A would include Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
Conference B would include Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.
Conference C would include Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.
Conference D would include Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
My first thought is that the Blackhawks and other teams in the central get a little bit of the shaft as they will lose playing Detroit six times a year. But there is the rumor that every team will play a home and home with each other.
But this is a proposal that I think everybody could live with. This brings back the days of the old division rivalries. While the Hawks lose the Red Wings, they will gain Minnesota and Winnipeg. It also means that fans don’t have to rush home for a 6:00 start anymore.
Each division is specifically geared towards limiting travel. Both Detroit and Columbus are winners as they are now placed in eastern divisions and won’t have to worry about as many 9 PM starts. The sore thumb is the two Florida franchises which are far from every other team. But they will join a division with the Red Wins and Canadian teams which should help boost their attendance.
Being a younger guy, I’ve never had the opportunity to see the divisional rivalries such as the ones that existed in the Patrick and Norris divisions. This is a setup that most fans can probably get behind as they can see teams that hate more. The Pacific teams all win because they are in a division together as well as the Central teams except for Colorado.
With every team playing at every stadium it is a chance to grow the game even more. Fans will no longer have to wait 2 years to see Sidney Crosby again as they can see him every season now.
This solution should placate the NHLPA as it satisfies the concern with increased travel. Most teams will play almost half of their games within their conference and only will face one trip a year out west or east.
Another question that the NHLPA raised last year was the inequity of conferences. Teams would have a tougher time making the playoffs if they were placed in an eight team conference rather than a seven team conference. Therefore, a solution would be another wild card spot that has not been clarified completely. This would be a way to placate the NHLPA and make things even between each conference.
There are plenty of winners in realignment. Winnipeg, Detroit and Columbus win by getting into conferences that will decrease travel and allow their fans to see more games. The fans will get to win as they get to build up the hate that was common in the 80’s and 90’s. Teams in the central won’t be happy to lose Detroit because they bring in ticket sales. But this is a chance to redefine the NHL and grow the game. There are a lot of positives to take from realignment and this proposal looks like a winner.