NHL Realignment Project – Week 48

NHL Realignment Project - Week 48

Week 48 – Gary’s Dream?

Once again, this week we add a little expansion to our NHL realignment talk. Despite some hiccups in Markham, it is not hard to imagine the NHL expanding into the Greater Toronto Area and back into Quebec City in the near future and collecting some mega-huge expansion fees. While Quebec City is much further along in the process (as evidenced by the recently released arena plans), I don’t doubt that we will soon(ish) see an NHL team in Markham. I think that the combination of  GTA’s hockey-mad population, the win-win situation for the Toronto Maple Sports & Entertainment’s majority owners (media companies Rogers Communications and Bell Canada) and most importantly, the plethora of corporate sponsorship opportunities will all combine to get the deal done.

With all this in mind, let’s try to get inside of Gary Bettman’s brain for a bit. Believe or not, Gary Bettman is a human being, and humans actually care about the mark they leave on this world. Gary probably enjoys the (*GASP*) positive vibe he gets from Winnipeg born from the happiness that they have an NHL team again. So let’s not be surprised if his next few major moves after this unbelievably negative one (lockout number three), end up being some lay-ups of positivity:

Gary’s job is to do what’s best for the owners he represents so of course, he is interested in the windfall of cash that two new expansion teams represents. But any good will that Gary might get will come from selecting cities that have hockey history for that expansion. The aforementioned Quebec City and GTA are no-brainers for this.

Along those same lines, moving the team in limbo, Phoenix Coyotes to Seattle where (like QC) there is a new arena on the way and there is actually a history of hockey, will write another positive chapter in Gary’s book (just don’t talk to the fans in Phoenix or Atlanta).

Let’s make one additional assumption to complete our Professor X job on Gary’s noodle—we can tell by the short-lived NHL realignment that the Board of Governors proposed last year, that the commish is interested in four conferences… which in turn, reflect and reinforce the idea of a 32-team league to even up the conferences at 8 teams each.While there will be lots of pissed off folks at first, especially if the playoff format proposed happens, eventually a very profitable league in (mostly) very receptive cities with tons of rivalry goodness will equal a (mostly) satisfied fan base and successful league.

What more can any commissioner want?

 

The Map

NHL Realignment Map - Week 48

NHL Realignment Map – Week 48

The Breakdown:

This week’s re-imagined league brings back the NHL’s four-conference breakdown proposed last year (links provided for concept names/logos).

GRETZKY CONFERENCE
Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Seattle Metros
Vancouver Canucks
HOWE CONFERENCE
Chicago Blackhawks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets
ORR CONFERENCE
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Quebec Tempest
Toronto Legacy
Toronto Maple Leafs
Washinton Capitals
LEMIEUX CONFERENCE
Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Tampa Bay Lightning

 

Gained teams:

Seattle, Toronto (Markham), Quebec City

 

Lost teams:

Phoenix

 

The Benefits:

• Rivalries — I tried my best to keep most of the major rivalries together. The more obvious ones are all here, of course, but even the “secondary” ones like the Sabres and the Leafs have been maintained where possible.

• Travel — Four conferences cut down on travel for the teams that currently have the heaviest burden. Teams with the lightest travel burdens right now add a little more, but are still in much better shape than the frequent-flier champs.

• Cold Belt — Unlike his previous efforts at expansion, Gary’s next moves put teams in historically hockey-centric markets. Couple that with moving Phoenix to Seattle, another city with hockey history, and we’re in a better place overall as a league in my opinion.

 

Scheduling:

Each team plays:

- against its seven conference-mates twice at home and twice on the road each:
 4 games x 7 teams = 28 games

- against the teams in the other conferences once at home and once on the road:
2 games x 24 teams = 48 games

- half of each conference (4 teams) pair up the the other half for an additional home-and-home series (switch the pairings each season):
2 games x 3 teams = 6 games

28 + 48 + 6 = 82 game season
Playoffs:

• Top four teams from each conference qualify for a “final four” style tournament. All series are best of seven.

• Round 1: Conference Semifinals (1 seed vs. 4 seed; 2 vs. 3  (based on overall record))

• Round 2: Conference Finals (first round winners play each other)

• Round 3: Stanley Cup Semifinals (best overall record of remaining teams picks it’s opponent for this round)

• Round 4: Stanley Cup Finals

As always, thanks for reading, and don’t forget to use the sharing buttons to spread the word and wish me luck on my impending fatherhood in February.

 

—Tom

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