NHL Realignment Project – Week 46

NHL Realignment Project - Week 46

Olé… Olé, Olé, Olé!

Listen up all you hooligans out there. This week we’re doing something that ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NEVER WOULD HAPPEN in the NHL (or NBA, NFL, MLB or pretty much any other North American professional sports league). We are instituting a system of relegation and promotion… just like in most of the global soccer leagues out there.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this (very normal everywhere else) system, the premise is simple: There are multiple “league levels” of the sport in question, then at the end of each season, a certain number of teams from each league level either drop to the next level down (relegation) or move up to the next level up (promotion) based on standings (or the “table” if you wanted to go with the established vernacular).

To set up our fictitious NHL, we are take the 30 teams of the NHL and the  30 teams of the AHL and combine them into our system. Using the records at the end of the 2011-12 campaigns, we take the top 20 teams of the NHL and create our “Premier League”. The other 10 NHL teams joint the 10 best AHL teams to make up the “Alpha League”. The remaining 20 AHL teams make up the “Beta League”.

Now that our leagues are set up, we put in place our promotion/relegation rules moving forward. At the end of every regular season, the bottom for teams of the Premier League drop down to the Alpha League, with a  corresponding promotion of the top four teams in the Alpha League to the Premier League. Same goes for the bottom of the Alpha and the top of the Beta. Simple, right?

Simple in theory, almost impossible to map. It took me for-friggin-ever to put this one together. Hence the lateness of this post (I’m a full week behind on my “weekly” update to the NHLRP now). Let’s look at the insanity:


The Map

NHL Realignment Map - Week 46

NHL Realignment Map - Week 46


The Breakdown:

60-team “super league” broken down into three 20-team hockey leagues — NHL Premier, NHL Alpha, NHL Beta. At the end of each regular season, the bottom 4 teams in Premier and Alpha are relegated to the next league below (Alpha and Beta, respectively). Conversely, the top 4 teams in Alpha and Beta are promoted to the next league above (Premier and Alpha, respectively). Playoffs happen for the top 16 teams in the Premier League (Stanley Cup) and the top 16 in the Alpha league (Calder Cup). Playoff results do not affect promotion positioning/status. Promotion is based purely regular season records. NHL Beta has no Cup-style knock-out playoffs.

NHL Premier
Team Former League
Boston Bruins NHL
Buffalo Sabres NHL
Calgary Flames NHL
Chicago Blackhawks NHL
Colorado Avalanche NHL
Dallas Stars NHL
Detroit Red Wings NHL
Florida Panthers NHL
Los Angeles Kings NHL
Nashville Predators NHL
New Jersey Devils NHL
New York Rangers NHL
Ottawa Senators NHL
Philadelphia Flyers NHL
Phoenix Coyotes NHL
Pittsburgh Penguins NHL
St. Louis Blues NHL
San Jose Sharks NHL
Vancouver Canucks NHL
Washington Capitals NHL


NHL Alpha
Team Former League
Abbottsford Heat AHL
Anaheim Ducks NHL
Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL
Carolina Hurricanes NHL
Chicago Wolves AHL
Columbus Blue Jackets NHL
Edmonton Oilers NHL
Hershey Bears AHL
Milwaukee Admirals AHL
Minnesota Wild NHL
Montreal Canadiens NHL
New York Islanders NHL
Norfolk Admirals AHL
Oklahoma City Barons AHL
St. John’s Ice Caps AHL
Tampa Bay Lightning NHL
Toronto Marlies AHL
Toronto Maple Leafs NHL
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins AHL
Winnipeg Jets NHL


NHL Beta
Team Former League
Adirondack Phantoms AHL
Albany Devils AHL
Binghamton Senators AHL
Charlotte Checkers AHL
Connecticut Whale AHL
Grand Rapids Griffins AHL
Hamilton Bulldogs AHL
Houston Aeros AHL
Lake Erie Monsters AHL
Manchester Monarchs AHL
Peoria Rivermen AHL
Portland Pirates AHL
Providence Bruins AHL
Rochester Americans AHL
Rockford IceHogs AHL
San Antonio Rampage AHL
Springfield Falcons AHL
Syracuse Crunch AHL
Texas Stars AHL
Worcester Sharks AHL



Gained teams:

Every AHL city is now considered part of the NHL.


Lost teams:

Technically, no one. But the 10 current NHL markets that will now host NHL Alpha teams are: Anaheim, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Columbus, Long Island, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Carolina.


The Benefits:

• Opportunity — Teams in smaller markets with no hope of ever attracting an NHL team (either through relocation or expansion) would, in theory be able to earn their way up the food chain and get a shot at the Stanley Cup.

• Opportunity II — Cities that could probably do well with and NHL team (Seattle, Portland, Quebec City, Hamilton, Kansas City, Hartford, Las Vegas, Salt Lake) could find it easier to lure a team to there cities… by competing to convince Beta teams to relocate to their cities/arenas instead of jumping straight into the NHL (or Premier League, as it were). Once a team was in place, then the task would be to move up to Alpha and eventually Premier.

• Fan protection — Speaking of relocation… I’d ban any Premier or Alpha team from relocating to another city. If you’re good enough to be in the two most elite divisions, your fans deserve to know that their team won’t be stolen from them and moved to another city. Owners/GMs that engineered choke jobs to drive a team down into the Beta League just to relocate, would lose so much money in the process, it’d probably not be worth it.

Regular season awesomeness — Since promotion and relegation are based on regular season standings, not on playoff performance, the regular season has a whole hell of a lot of importance… top to bottom. Maybe this is the way to make the regular season as exciting as the regular season is in College Football.


Each team plays every other team twice at home and twice on the road: 4 games x 19 teams = 76 games

Playoffs (Premier and Alpha):

• Top 16 teams qualify.

• 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, 3 vs 14, etc.

• reseed after every round

• Premier League champion earns Stanley Cup

• Alpha League champion earns Calder Cup

• Since promotion is a regular season reward


Just to reiterate: this will never, can never, should never happen. This was just for fun. As a fan of Brazilian Soccer (Galo!) I’ve often wondered how relegation might look in a North American league.

Some of the major issues here are:

– The AHL and NHL teams have affiliations with each other and often, the same owners.

– The NHL Draft would be a cluster if 60 teams were involved, I’m guessing.

– Travel would be a nightmare during the playoffs if geography was not part of the equation.

– Rivalries are the lifeblood of the league. This effectively kills them.


As always, thanks for reading, and don’t forget to use the sharing buttons to spread the word.



16 Responses to NHL Realignment Project – Week 46

  1. Carmichael says:

    there’s no p in Binghamton.

  2. Pingback: Bruins top Capitals, force Game 7 | Top Popular News Today

  3. Whiskey Mcclinton says:

    This is great system where there are no salary floors. If an owner wants to save money, they can, but face the chance of their team dropping down a tier. Eventually, each team would find their ideal market.

  4. Mike says:

    Very interesting take on re-alignment. An obvious candidate for a relegation system is the greatly hurting MLB. It is torture to have to endure endless Yankees-Royals games, or Red Sox-Orioles. There are great AAA ballparks and fanbases that deserve a shot at the big leagues more than teams that cant sellout games.

    • tom says:

      Taking all the same caveats into account as this NHL realignment (never gonna happen, teams often have intertwined ownership situations, etc), I think you’re right. MLB would be a great candidate. There are a lot of similarities between the MLB and the NHL (draft eligibility, minor league systems), it only makes sense that this would be another area where they’d be pretty in-step.

      • JM says:

        I doubt relegation would work well in the MLB, since the minor league teams are affiliated with the big league teams, who get all the best players. Currently, any minor league team that moved up to the majors would win maybe 20 games a year (out of 162).

  5. Dave says:

    What happens when a team with the same name as another team moves into the same tier?
    It would be a little weird to have two teams named Devils or Penguins in the same tier of league.

    • tom says:

      Even though it already exists in the AHL (Milwaukee Admirals and Norfolk Admirals), I agree that it is weird and should be fixed. The team that had the name first gets to keep it and the other team(s) re-brand.

      Please, owners, don’t just go to the public for a vote… democracy sounds good in theory, but in sports you end up with teams with awful names like the Toronto Raptors. — For shame.

  6. Gary says:

    hey Tom —
    not sure if you’ll see this now (site inactive?), but you should check out this proposal at the sportingnews.com — NHL labor: Say hello to the real ‘New NHL’—and NHL2 — awfully familiar, sad to say…
    (could be coincidental, but I’m skeptical)

  7. Mathieu Piché says:

    Interesting pattern… but it’d be a total nonsense to relegate the 2 founding teams (habs and leafs)… would you relegate Yankees, Packers or Celtics? Even if they finish last? The answer is obvious… sorry

    • tom says:

      Of course this system of relegation/promotions could never happen, but it if did, there would be no exceptions… If Manchester United or Chelsea had a horrible season in the EPL, they’d get sent down too… history/past success be damned. Same for the Founders TOR and MTL or any of the other Original Six members for that matter. Season record would determine relegation, period.

      But again, this who scenario was just for fun… there are a billion and a half reasons why it could never happen.

      Thanks for reading!


  8. Mathieu Piché says:

    In fact… this pattern could work IF AND ONLY IF every team must have AT LEAST 60-70% of their players coming from their surrounding area… which would litterally kill most of southern US based teams… but heck… let them watch rodeos and family inter-breeding…

    • tom says:

      I’m not following your “surrounding area” logic. Why exactly? Also, as someone living in the US South, I’ll make sure to tell my sister-wife and my three-eyed children that we need to get back to watching rodeo and abandon the greatest sport ever invented.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.