Nate Silver Optimizes the NHL

In his NY Times post, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver steps away from politics and baseball to take on the NHL. The post’s title, “Why Can’t Canada Win the Stanley Cup?” is a lead-in premise to his re-imagining of a more balanced league in terms of where and how intense fanbases seem to be.

It’s nice to see a mind far smarter and more analytical than my feeble patchwork of five or six braincells look at how to better the league.

I’ve taken his new 28-team optimized NHL and put my ol’ realignment spin on it. Same guidelines apply as my NHL Realignment Project:

1). Keep the conferences limited to one or two time zones (a.k.a limit East-West travel);

2.) Preserve rivalries as much as logistically possible.

Here’s the map (click it for full size):

NHL Realignment Nate Silver/Tom Fulery Mashup

Bonus Tidbits (mmmmmmmmmm Timbits):

  • I’ve used the four conference, no divisions format
  • The conferences bring back the old school names used for divisions from 1974-1993
  • The new Dallas Stars logo is used
  • Quebec Nordiques, Hamilton Tigers, Montreal Maroons are all throwback names to previous NHL teams located in each of those locales.
  • Seattle Metropolitans, while never an NHL team, was a PCHA team that played from 1915-1924, and was the first American team to win the Stanley Cup (wikipedia article)
  • Toronto Legacy is a name used by a movement for getting a team into Markham, Ontario (site).

Nice to post something about realignment again. I gotta say, I missed it.

As always, thanks for reading… and make sure to check out Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don’t

Check out the rest of the NHL Realignment Project too, in case you missed it.

– Tom

NHL Realignment – Do It Yourself Map Kit

Included in the following ZIP file is a Photoshop file of the NHL realignment the league announced recently with a ton of layers you can turn on and off, and selectable teams that can be relocated (or contracted) at will. If you want to add team logos that aren’t part of the current 30, there are plenty of resources online for finding those. But again, this template has the current 30 teams divvied up the way Gary and the Boyz™ decided was best, with the style of connectors that I’ve been using for the last (quite a) few months.

Also included is a blank version that you can divvy up the way you think is best using your own version of connector lines… who says you need to make ‘em look like mine, right? Again the current 30 teams are included, but this is a flattened image file, so no relocations.

Not included are the fonts I used (those cost money)… but you can switch ‘em to system fonts like Arial easy enough.

Click on the icon below to download.

Enjoy!

— Tom

zipNHL-Realignment-Map-DIY

 

Realigning the NHL the Right Way

My final proposal is just a little too late. And it’s too bad, because I went all “Howard Hughes” obsessive with it and made it into more of an infographic — and the Scheduling Pods and Scheduling Quads concept was so cool… oh well.

In both phases of this two phase plan:

Chicago fans can now calm down as I’ve put the Wings back in your conference.

Wings fans, please put down the pitchforks. In phase two of the plan, your team only has to play nine road games per season in the Mountain or Pacific Time Zones… and you get to play the Leafs and the Rangers four times each during the regular season… and the Habs and Bruins twice each, rounding out the Original Six.

Click the thumbnail to expand to the full size infographic.

 

Two Step NHL Realignment

Two Step NHL Realignment

 

 

Oh, You Want a RADICAL Realignment?

You all knew I wouldn’t be able to stop.

Here is the most radical, yet positively doable re-imagining of the NHL yet. It’s a crazy hybridization of the plans being tossed around lately, plus relocation and expansion. It addresses the biggest gripe of the latest realignment—Chicago losing Detroit as a more-than-two-games-per-season opponent. It does however keep the other gripe that half(ish) fans have, the “final four” playoff style. Also, since we’ve upped to 32 teams, there shall be no whining about uneven/unfair playoff chances.

The key to it all is this: In addition to Conference opponents, each team gets two non-confence rivals which whom they have an additional home-and-home series. I picked the pairings based on previous rivalry history (i.e. Chicago/Detroit), relocation history (i.e. Quebec City/Colorado), Stanley Cup finals history (i.e. LA/Montreal). These pairings can obviously be tweaked, but the idea is there, and dare I say, really interesting to me.

I’ll stop talking now… other than to apologize to the fans in Miami and Phoenix.

Additional Note: Florida to Houston could just as easily be to Kansas City or Milwaukee or some other Central Time Zone city.

Click the image to enlarge and read the details:

Radical NHL Realignment — Crazy can sometimes work.

Radical NHL Realignment — Crazy can sometimes work.

NHL Realignment Project – Week 52

NHL Realignment Project - Week 52

Rivalry Pods

Things look bleak right about now for us fans of the NHL. The lockout has moved from meeting rooms to courtrooms. The players (and their leader) have decided that what the NHL has to offer is just not good enough (and honestly, I can’t blame them), and they are willing to fight to the end for something a little more fair. I’m not gonna get too into the woods on the issues causing the lockout, other than to say two of the problems (and they go hand-in-hand) are there are a few too many teams in places where the game,  as it is currently set up, just isn’t sustainable AND the more successful teams think too much in terms of “me, me, me” and not in terms of a healthy league top to bottom creating a rising tide that lifts all boats.

But I digress.

Whether we get a super short season in the beginning of 2013 or not, the earliest we’ll see realignment is for the 2013-14 season. For the record, I think that the league will do so, and will either but something similar to what they proposed last December back on the table (and the foreshadowing of expansion that comes with it), or they will opt for a short term fix that is just a tweaking of the current system. With that in mind, I present the last official entry of the NHL Realignment Project.

While I had flirted with the idea of going into another elaborate description of expansion and crazy scheduling pods and special rivalry games, I thought… let’s just get back to basics and get something doable and sensible done (are you listening to me, Gary and Donald?).

So while this does cause the eager fans in Seattle, Quebec City, Markham, et. al. to have to wait a bit more before landing teams (via expansion and/or relocation), this is actually something that can be done quickly, without ruffling tooooooooo many feathers and addresses some (but not all) of the beefs with the NHL’s current lineup. The league would do well to take this step, even if subsequent expansion renders it obsolete soon, if for no other reason than to say, “Hey, we’re past the dark days and moving in a positive direction.”

Other than a few slight changes to the map, the main thing this week’s scenario introduces is something I call “Rivalry Pods.”

I’ve always tried to keep as many of the league’s rivalries intact during my realignment scenarios, but you can’t get them all neatly into divisions no matter how you break ‘em up. But now, with rivalry pods, you get to add a few additional games versus rivals each year. The rivalries in the NHL don’t all line up perfectly, but this allows for teams like DET and TOR to have an extra home-and-home each season, or DAL and SJS… even thought they are actually in different divisions. But, I’m getting ahead of myself—first we’ve got to look at the divisions…

 

The Map:

NHL Realignment Map - Week 52

NHL Realignment Map – Week 52

 

The Breakdown:

The main changes we see are moving Winnipeg out of the Southeast and Dallas out of the Pacific. To most outside observers, these are the most glaring anomalies in the league’s current alignment. While Minnesota and Winnipeg still have to travel two time zones over for games in the arenas of three of the division-mates, unlike what Dallas had, they at least have each other as near-ish neighbors… not to mention those two cities have no problems retaining eyeballs on TV sets for late starting hockey games. Hockey is king in Manitoba, is and arguably so in Minnesota too, so the Pacific Time Zone is less of an issue.

It’ll be interesting to have a division with four Canadian teams in it to kinda counter-balance the three that are US-only. While Detroit doesn’t get it’s long-standing wish to move to the Eastern Conference, I think it’s time we all admit the NHL just isn’t going to do that. They’ll go to the four-conference option first, rendering that argument null. Since this is short-term plan, there is no need to introduce that upheaval now.

Western Confernce
Northwest Division Pacific Division Central Division
Calgary Flames Anaheim Ducks Chicago Blackhawks
Edmonton Oilers Colorado Avalanche Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild Los Angeles Kings Detroit Red Wings
Vancouver Canucks Phoenix Coyotes Nashville Predators
Winnipeg Jets San Jose Sharks St. Louis Blues
Eastern Conference
Northeast Division Atlantic Division Southeast Division
Boston Bruins New Jersey Devils Carolina Panthers
Buffalo Sabres New York Islanders Columbus Blue Jackets
Montreal Canadiens New York Rangers Florida Panthers
Ottawa Senators Philadelphia Flyers Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs Pittsburgh Penguins Washington Capitals

Other than the league’s current crazy alignment, the other main beef I have is scheduling. This new version of the NHL would include a schedule to that has every team visit to every arena each season at least once. That’ just something that makes sense to me. This weird “some years here, some years not… some years you each get a home game, some years, just one of you hosts the other” thing has got to go. To solve this, allow me to introduce…

Rivalry Pods:

While the division breakdowns of this realignment scenario address a great majority of the rivalries in the NHL, with a little creative thinking, we can work more rivalry games into the schedule. Teams would play each of their pod-rivals in an extra home-and-home series sprinkled throughout the season. I’d suggest use of third jerseys or throwback jerseys for these games (at least for the home team). I’ll get into more specifics on the schedule in just a bit, but first let’s look at the pods themselves:
Rivalry Pod 1 CHI, DAL, MIN, SJS, VAN
Rivalry Pod 2 ANA, CGY, EDM, LAK, PHX
Rivalry Pod 3 BOS, COL, DET, MTL, TOR
Rivalry Pod 4 FLA, NSH, STL, TBL, WPG
Rivalry Pod 5 BUF, CBJ, OTT, PHI, PIT
Rivalry Pod 6 CAR, NJD, NYI, NYR, WSH

Granted, not all teams within pods are rivals of all other teams in the pod (that’s just not possible to align), but there is plenty of historical bad-blood, and/or geographical proximity amongst the teams to make most of these games extra-interesting. DET/TOR, DET/COL, CHI/VAN, DAL/SJS, DAL/MIN, oh my! Coupled with divisional rivalries, we get more of what makes the NHL great—rivalry games—without overdoing it with just playing more and more games against your division-mates. I think this’d be the perfect balance, and really good for the game.

 

Gained teams:

none

Lost teams:

none

 

Schedule:

Against each divisional opponent — 3 home and 3 away games:
6 games x 4 teams = 24 games

Against each non-divisional conference opponent — 1 home and 1 away game:
2 games x 10 teams = 20 games 

Against each non-conference opponent — 1 home and 1 away game:
2 games x 15 teams = 30 games

Against each pod-rival — an additional home-and-home series:
2 games x 4 teams = 8 games

24+20+30+8 = an 82 game season

 

Playoffs:

Playoffs remain unchanged from current format of 8 qualifying teams from each conference playing in a four-round (all best-of-seven) knock-out tournament.  Three division champs from each conference are seeded 1-3 and the next five best records round out the 8 conference qualifiers.

Round 1 — Conference Quarter-finals:
1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6, 4 vs 5

Round 2 — Conference Semi-finals (teams reseeded after first round):
1 vs 4, 2 vs 3

Round 3 — Conference Finals:
Two surviving teams vie for Conference Championship

Round 4 — Stanley Cup Finals:
Eastern Conference Champion vs Western Conference Champion

 

A Big Thank You:

Okay guys. That’s it! Over a year ago, I challenged myself to show the endless possibilities of realignment  (and the fact that none of them will make everyone happy). While my “52 scenarios in 52 weeks” plan fell through because of life and work, I did finally see it through to the end. Thank you so much for reading and commenting over the last (quite a) few months. Your input has shaped quite a few of the proposals I put forward (killing the Buffa-slug logo… pointing out that breaking up PHI and NYR is just as bad in Flyer eyes as breaking up PHI and PIT… hearing from Columbus Blue Jacket and Phoenix Coyote fans (and Atlanta fans) who are just as passionate as any out there… here’s to hoping that the stupid strife of this lockout will at least create a smarter, better, more fair league where no one even again has to suffer through what the fans in Atlanta (yes, there are plenty), Hartford and Quebec City have had to endure in the relatively recent past.

Please keep coming back to the site to check out more hockey infographics, more polls, more silly venn diagrams and other (mostly) hockey shenanigans… and, almost undoubtedly more realignment scenarios (I just won’t be able to contain myself).

So thanks again for the patience and the participation. And here’s to hoping that the fans in Seattle and Quebec City get teams soon and that the league resolves its issues, and becomes healthy enough to grow and flourish forever.

Cheers!

—Tom

NHL Realignment Project – Week 51

 

NHL Realignment Project - Week 51

A More Balanced East

Last week’s realignment got a little feedback on here and on Twitter that despite my best efforts, a few to many important rivalries got split up. Consider this week’s map a tweak of last week’s. While of course there is no silver bullet that will please all people and teams (hence this blog’s slogan “endless possibilities, no consensus), I think this is the best addressing of rivalries of the entire project thus far. An additional by-product of the tweaks is a more balanced set of teams in the two conferences on the east side of the map. Havalook:

The Map:

NHL Realignment Project - Week 51

NHL Realignment Project – Week 51

The Breakdown:

Once again, this week’s re-imagined league continues to use the NHL’s four-conference breakdown proposed last year. I’ve gone with the common names of the Stanley Cup winning teams from Seattle and Quebec—the Metropolitans and Bulldogs respectively. Side note: the Quebec Stanley Cup champs were only informally knowns as the Bulldogs, they were officially the Quebec Hockey Club at the time. I’m not advocating these names, my preference would be to let people from each of the cities vote on names vetted presented by the two franchises… none of that “let the people submit names for voting or using something hip at the time that will seem stupid in a couple of years” crap — I’m looking at you, Toronto RAPTORS! *facepalm* But for the map this week, I just when with the Metropolitans and the Bulldogs.

Again, conference names are an homage to the greatest players (arguably, of course) in the history of the teams of that conference. Gretzky (Oilers and Kings); Howe (Red Wings); Orr (Bruins); Lemieux (Penguins).

GRETZKY CONFERENCE
Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Seattle Metropolitans
Vancouver Canucks
HOWE CONFERENCE
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Winnipeg Jets
ORR CONFERENCE
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Columbus Blue Jackets
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Quebec Bulldogs
Toronto Maple Leafs
Washington 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, Quebec City

 

Lost teams:

none

 

The Benefits:
• Rivalries — Like I mentioned earlier in this post, with reader inputs I’ve done my best work so far in keeping 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. Some of the Howe Conference teams could evolve into good rivalries too, like Dallas and Nashville. And to all you who constantly complain that the PHI/NYR rivalry is more important than the PIT/PHI rivalry—once again, the Broadway Blueshirts and the Broad Street Bullies and kept together. Oh, and Detroit and Colorado are together now… you’re welcome.

• Travel — Four conferences cut down on travel for the teams that currently have the heaviest burden (mainly Dallas, Winnipeg, Minnesota). Some of the teams with the light travel burdens right now add a little more (looking at you Lemieux Conference), but are still in much better shape than the  frequent-flier champs out west. The only teams that have to got beyond one additional time zone for any in-conference game are the aforementioned Red Wings and Avalanche… and just to play each other. With that hatred, they won’t mind a bit.

• Heritage — The conferences are named for some of the greats from the history of the game. Only issue with this is having only four will spark countless debate on the choices (where are Richard, Kennedy Plante, Hull, Bossy, Smith, Lafleur, etc.)

Erin Andrews — With both her faves in one conference (The Lightning and the Rangers), we can only expect more tweets, mentions and other additional exposure to the Queen of All Media (Oprah retired). I welcome all of it.

 

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 pair up and play 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

NHL Realignment Project – Week 50

 

Bulldogs and Metropolitans

This week’s realignment is somewhat inspired by the “Lords of the Stanley Cup” infographic I did last week. In expanding to a 32-team league (which is something most believe the NHL will do soon), I picked the larger two cities of the four that have had Stanley Cup championships in the past, but no longer have teams: Seattle and Quebec City (the other two are Victoria, BC and Kenora, ON, in case you’re curious). This idea is also reinforced by the poll we’ve got running showing those two cities being the ones with the highest support for NHL expansion (yes, I know it’s not scientific, and no, I don’t think I am Nate Silver or anything).

This is no far-fetched scenario, with Markham’s arena deal hitting the skids lately, this may actually be the way things turn out.

The Map:

NHL Realignment Map - Week 50

NHL Realignment Map – Week 50

 

The Breakdown:

This week’s re-imagined league continues to use the NHL’s four-conference breakdown proposed last year. I’ve gone with the common names of the Stanley Cup winning teams from Seattle and Quebec—the Metropolitans and Bulldogs respectively. Side note: the Quebec Stanley Cup champs were only informally knowns as the Bulldogs, they were officially the Quebec Hockey Club at the time. Conference names are an homage to the greatest players (arguably, of course) in the history of the teams of that conference. Gretzky (Oilers and Kings); Howe (Red Wings); Orr (Bruins); Kennedy (Maple Leafs).

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

 

Gained teams:

Seattle, Kansas City, Quebec City

 

Lost teams:

none

 

The Benefits:
• Media — With one conference boasting all eight members as previous Stanley Cup winners, we might score a bit of a running narrative for TV/print/electronic media to latch on to. Kind of like the SEC has in college football now. The teams in the Orr will obviously hate each other a ton, but will have a strange kinship in that there’s is the only conference with the “all champs” distinction. This “better than the rest” attitude will further fuel this 8 teams efforts, and more importantly fuel the other three conferences to step up and dethrone them… just like the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 do in the NCAA.

• Rivalries — Once again, I’ve 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. Some of the Howe Conference teams could evolve into good rivalries too, like Dallas and Nashville. And to all you who constantly complain that the PHI/NYR rivalry is more important than the PIT/PHI rivalry—once again, the Broadway Blueshirts and the Broad Street Bullies and kept together. Oh, and Detroit and Colorado are together now… you’re welcome.

• Travel — Four conferences cut down on travel for the teams that currently have the heaviest burden (mainly Dallas, Winnipeg, Minnesota). Some of the teams with the light travel burdens right now add a little more (looking at you Kennedy Conference), but are still in much better shape than the frequent-flier champs out west. The only teams that have to got beyond one additional time zone for any in-conference game are the aforementioned Red Wings and Avalanche… and just to play each other. With that hatred, they won’t mind a bit.

• Heritage — The conferences are named for some of the greats from the history of the game. Only issue with this is having only four will spark countless debate on the choices (where are Richard, Plante, Hull, Bossy, Smith, Lafleur, etc.)

 

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 pair up and play 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

NHL Realignment Project – Week 49

NHL Realignment Project - Week 49

 

Gary’s Dream – With a Little Barbecue Sauce

So, last week we outlined a version of the NHL that could very conceivably be something Gary Bettman could steer the league towards. The biggest caveat of the week was the issues that Markham seems to have run into with their arena plans. If we pull them out of the equation, and limit our relocation/expansion efforts to cities with arenas that have already been approved or have  been built, we end up with a slightly tweaked version of Gary’s dream (granted, to the league it would be a nightmare, because they would certainly not be as able to milk nearly as much out of expansion fees without the richest city in Canada).

The Sprint Center in Kansas City, the New Colisée in Quebec City, and the not-yet-named arena in Seattle are the sites of our expansion/relocation efforts in this installment.

Like last week, let’s make the assumption that from the short-lived realignment that the league proposed last year, 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. And again, the proposed playoff format will piss off a ton of fans (and make another ton very happy somehow), but the trade off of having a more fair travel load across the league and the maintaining of most of the major rivalries in the league, might be worth it.

Besides, I’m willing to bet right now that most fans would be more than fine with a realignment and a re-working of the playoff format if it meant we got to watch some damn hockey again.

 

The Map:

NHL Realignment Map - Week 49

NHL Realignment Map – Week 49

 

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
Detroit Red Wings
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
ORR CONFERENCE
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Minnesota Wild
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Quebec Tempest
Toronto Maple Leafs
Winnipeg Jets
HULL CONFERENCE
Carolina Hurricanes
Dallas Stars
Florida Panthers
Kansas City Scouts
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
Tampa Bay Lightning
Washington Capitals

 

Gained teams:

Seattle, Kansas City, 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. Some of the Hull Conference teams could evolve into good rivalries too, like Dallas and Nashville and obviously Kansas City and St. Louis. And to all you who constantly complain that the PHI/NYR rivalry is more important than the PIT/PHI rivalry… once again, the Broadway Blueshirts and the Broad Street Bullies and kept together.

• Travel — Four conferences cut down on travel for the teams that currently have the heaviest burden (mainly Dallas, Winnipeg, Minnesota). Teams with the lightest travel burdens right now add a little more, but are still in much better shape than the frequent-flier champs. All conferences now span two time zones and none span three. Some of the old guard on the east coast won’t like this, but fair is fair.

• Heritage — The conferences are named for some of the greats from the history of the game. Only issue with this is having only four will spark countless debate on the choices (Richard, Plante, Kennedy, Bossy, Smith, Lafleur, etc.)

 

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 pair up 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

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

NHL Realignment Project – Week 47

NHL Realignment Project - Week 47

La Key en Rose

Hello again, everyone. After a verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry long hiatus, I’m back with another reshaping of the NHL.

First, all apologies for going dark for so many months. Business is picking up over in the real world, so unlike the NHL and the PA, I’m working a lot these days. Another reason I’ve placed my attention elsewhere is the fact that Mrs. Fulery and I are expecting our first child soon and that really takes over your life… so far in a very good way.

Besides, not much has happened in hockey since I went away anyways, right? :P

This week we look at a scenario that involves two cities losing their teams (one unlikely and the other definitely possible) to two cities that are in the Pacific Northwest. Both have arenas that can hold hockey (one well (The Rose Garden) and one not well at all (Key Arena)). While we’re much more likely to see teams in Quebec City or Markham before Portland, this would be a fun scenario for this WHL-centric part of the world.

 

The Map

NHL Realignment Map - Week 47

NHL Realignment Map – Week 47

The Breakdown:

This week’s re-imagined league brings back one of my favorite breakdowns — two conferences, each made up of five divisions of three teams.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Northwest Division
Portland Coyotes
Seattle Metros
Vancouver Canucks
Southwest Division
Anaheim Ducks
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Mountain Division
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Lakes Division
Chicago Blackhawks
Minnesota Wild
Winnipeg Jets
Central Division
Dallas Stars
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues
EASTERN CONFERENCE
Niagra Division
Buffalo Sabres
Detroit Red Wings
Toronto Maple Leafs
Liberty Division
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals
Southeast Division
Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers
Tampa Bay Lightning
Northeast Division
Boston Bruins
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Empire Division
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers

 

Gained teams:

Seattle, Portland

 

Lost teams:

Phoenix, Columbus

 

The Benefits:

• Focus — With more divisions, the main focus of an NHL team’s season is to win its division to guarantee it’s spot in the playoffs. Beat the other two teams in your division and your in. If you don’t, you still have three wildcard slots to shoot for, so its not an “all or nothing” situation, but its a lot closer… and hopefully more exciting.

• Rivalries — As an addendum to the last point, the other two teams in your division will become such hated rivals, that all games against them will be insanely great. Even when you team is in a bit of a slight swoon, you still have something to play for… just beat the two main rivals a lot and a playoff chance is a good bet.

• Travel — With Detroit now in the Eastern Conference, and Dallas and Winnipeg playing in divisions that actually make sense for their geographic locations, travel will be the last thing teams can complain about… not that that will stop ‘em.

Scheduling:

Each team plays:

- against its two division-mates four times at home and four times on the road each:
 8 games x 2 teams = 16 games

- against the teams in the other divisions within the conference once at home and once on the road:
2 games x 12 teams = 24 games

- an additional home-and-home series agains the teams of two of the divisions within the conference (flips to the the other two divisions within conference each year):
2 games x 6 teams = 12 games

- against its fifteen non-conference opponents once at home and once on the road:
2 games x 15 teams = 30 games
16 + 24 + 12 + 30 = 82 game season

Playoffs:

• Top team from each division qualifies (Seeded 1-5 based on overall record)

• Three best records amongst non-division winners qualify as wildcards (Seeded 6-8 based on overall record).

• Pairings/home-ice reset to match seedings after each round

• All best-of-seven series (I don’t want sixteenwins.com to have to change their name)

Acknowledgements:

Again, I can’t imagine Portland would skip ahead of some of the other oft-mentioned cities for NHL franchises (Quebec City and Markham particularly), but it would create such an amazing crucible of hate in the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver corridor, I wouldn’t argue against it. If the NHL expands to 32 teams in the future (most think that is the ultimate goal) it would be great if the Pacific Northwest was a part of it… and it would be a far less-risky enterprise than Gary’s 90s push for sunbelt hockey.

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