NHL Realignment Project – Week 43

NHL Realignment Project - Week 43

Five Alive

Okay, so we spent last week talking about a very unlikely scenario—contraction, this week we’re going to go with a slightly more probably occurrence—one where no teams move, no teams are added and no teams are lost. In short, we’re talking about realignment in its truest form—just realigning the existing teams into a different divisional breakdown.

I’ve taken the 30 teams in the NHL and kept them divided into 2 Conferences. What’s different is that I’ve broken each Conference into 5 Divisions instead of 3. The tight geography of this breakdown is it’s strength. If some of this seems eerily familiar, I’ve borrowed liberally from Week 33… you’re not going crazy.

 

The Map:

NOTE: As an added bonus for the last 10 weeks of the NHL Realignment Project (can you believe it?!), I’ve updated the map to be much bigger and nicer than the the first 42 weeks. It’s based on my free wallpaper of the current NHL and measures 1280 x 800 pixels. Enjoy.

NHL Realignment Map - Week 43

NHL Realignment Map - Week 43

 

The Breakdown:

Again, we have 2 Conferences, and they are tagged with Good Ol’ Gary™’s favorite names—Eastern and Western.

The 5 Divisions in each Conference are a mix of directional names, geographic features and historical nicknames… but honestly the names could be whatever folks want them to be (feel free to toss some ideas into the comments section). We’ve got a great mix of geographically sensible rivalries as well as a traditional ones (and wouldn’t you know it, tons of them are both).

 

Gained teams:

None (sorry, Quebec City, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, Seattle City, Las Vegas City, Hamilton City, Hartford City, Houston City and Portland City)

 

Lost teams:

None (people of Phoenix, Columbus and Long Island, REJOICE!)

 

The Benefits:

• Scheduling/Travel — Listen up, NHL and PA (and you too, Red Wings, Jets, Wild and Stars)! Here is the solution the biggest issue of the day (besides the egos of many of the combatants in the forthcoming CBA battle):

3-team divisions mean that the season is made up of 3 things:

  • Divisional Play:
    • Home-and-home series against divisional opponents
  • Play outside of your Division:
    • 3-game road trips (each trip is against all three teams in a single division)
    • 3-game home-stands (same thing as above except at home)
– It’s simple enough for fans, players and owners to grasp.
– Road trips are reasonably short, and as an added bonus, the travel from game-to-game during each a road trip isn’t too bad since divisions are “reasonably small” in geographic scope.
– Everyone loves home-and-home series which mean to 120+ minutes of game-time agains “those same bastards” in a very few days (PIMs galore!). Toss in the fact that “those bastards” are who you are in essence, fighting against for a spot in the playoffs, and you play each of your two division-mates eight times(!) per season, those games will be more intense then we can imagine.
– Oh, and every team plays every other team both home and away (Something the NHL and the fans wanted). See the Schedule Breakdown section a little further down the page for even more on the sublime simplicity (and “you can’t argue against this-ness”) of the plan.

• Fairness — Unlike the  NHLPA, I don’t subscribe to the “the teams in the 7-team conferences have are more likely to make the playoffs” argument (listen, you are more likely to qualify for the post-season in an awful 8-team conference than a really competitive 7-team conference), but this point is moot now anyways. This new plan calls for all teams play in equal-sized divisions with the same coin-flip percentage of making the playoffs, so everyone is happy, right? Additionally, with the “escape hatch” of there being three wild-card spots available to the non-division champs with the three best records, and there should be no whining.

• Rivalries —  The majority of the principal divisional rivalries are preserved. PIT/PHI, the 3 NYC-area teams, MTL/BOS, the 3 California teams, the 3 Western Canada teams are all keep alive and well. While PHI loses NYR as a rival, DET gains TOR and COL/DAL has some great history. Decent compensation, I say.

• John Williams — With a division named “Empire”, there definately be a lot of in-arena playing of Vader’s theme from Star Wars. Bahn-bahn-bahn, bahn-BA-duh, bahn-BA-dah!!

 

Scheduling:

Each team plays all it’s non-divisional opponents once at home and once on the road: 2 games x 27 teams = 54 games (played in three-game road trips to a single division, and three-game home-stands against a single division)

Each team plays its in-division opponents four times at home and four times on the road: 8 games x 2 teams = 16 games (played in home-and-home series)

Each team plays another set of games against the three teams from two divisions in their same conference: 2 games x 6 teams = 12 games (again, played in a three-game road trip and three-game home-stand (which divisions you play rotates each year, complete in 2-year cycles)

54 games + 16 games + 12 games = 82 games

Pretty simple. It doesn’t completely keep Columbus from having to make long in-conference road trips, but the trips are shorter in duration and more logistically sensible. Plus, as far as non-Eastern Time Zone road-trips go, the Jackets would only have two more of those than they would have Eastern Time Zone road-trips. The Ducks, Kings and Sharks no longer have to deal with a divisional opponent two time zones away either. You can argue that the Stars and Coyotes would occasionally have a two-hour difference, but that’d only be for the few weeks of the season when Arizona doesn’t spring forward for Daylight Savings, but Dallas (and the rest of the civilized world) does.

 

Playoffs:

Playoff qualification is now a reward for hard-earned divisional championships with three wildcards available for the “fell-just short” teams. While this is a bit different, the structure of the playoffs themselves is pretty much what we currently have (addressing yet another major concern of many players, teams, fans).

• 5 division winners from each conference qualify for the playoffs (seeded #1-#5 by record)

• 3 best records amongst the non-division winners in each conference are awarded wild-card spots (seeded #6-#8 by record)

• Round One: Conference Quarterfinals — #1 vs #8, #2 vs #7, #3 vs #6, #4 vs #5

• Round Two: Conference Semifinals — Highest seed vs lowest seed, 2nd highest vs 2nd lowest

• Round Three: Conference Finals

• Round Four: Stanley Cup Finals

• All series best-of-seven (2-2-1-1-1 format, with highest seeded team (not necessarily best record) with home-ice advantage)

 

The Closing Argument:

NHL regular season is just better when A) divisions mean a ton and B) conferences are less important. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you exhibit A in this argument: The NFL… and exhibit B: The NBA. It makes infinitely more sense for teams to identify with their own division and rally against division-mates in epic struggles to qualify for the playoffs, than to think of them as just another few teams to deal with in a vague quest against 14 other teams for one of 8 spots.

In short, we’d rather have teams claw, scratch and fight for 5 division crowns (with 3 consolation prizes), than meander through a season in search of one of 8 prizes (3 of which have a lil’ bonus attached).

For all you conference-lovers out there we have the greatest thing in all of sports… the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs

Don’t forget to share our lil’ project with your hockey fan friends. And, as always, thanks for reading. Until next Sunday!

— TF

Make sure to check out the entire NHL Realignment Project ».