NHL Expansion Scenario – Quebec City and Seattle

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Since the Coyotes are locked in (for at least five years), what might an NHL with expansion teams in Seattle and Quebec City look like? Let’s face it, relocation isn’t happening anytime soon (breath easy Panther, Devil, Blue Jacket fans). NHL expansion is the next hot thing (despite “talent pool” arguments to the contrary). Let’s check out how a four conference, no divisions NHL could look:

(click anywhere on the map to enlarge)

 

NHL Map - Expansion to Seattle and Quebec City

Nate Silver Optimizes the NHL

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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

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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

 

NHL Realignment Map 2013-14

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Now that it has been approved, here is “The Official Tom Fulery Version” of the 2013-14 NHL realignment (click image to enlarge):

 

UPDATE: The league has officially announced division names.

An updated map can be found here »

 

 

NHL Realignment 2013-14

NHL Realignment 2013-14

Realigning the NHL the Right Way

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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?

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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: New plan a win for nearly everybody – SBNation.com

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DefendingBigD‘s Brandon Worley presents his take on the NHL’s new realignment plan. Dallas’ placement in the Pacific is one of the main inspirations for my year-long NHL Realignment Project, and the folks over at DBD is THE place for Stars fans to to their thing. Good stuff, Brandon.

NHL realignment: New plan a win for nearly everybody – SBNation.com »

Proposed NHL Realignment 2013-14

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Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada (@FriedgeHNIC) reported that the forth-coming NHL Realignment Plan will be similar, but not exactly the same as the one the NHL proposed back in December of 2011. It’ll still be four conferences (two of 8 teams, two of 7 teams), but Detroit and Columbus would be moved to the “eastern” two conferences to reduce travel and better reflect the fact that they are actually in the Eastern time zone. I’m still processing it all, and considering the implications it has with future expansion and/or relocations.

In the meantime, here is one of my maps reflecting the proposed breakdown (click it for a larger version):

Proposed-NHL-Realignment-Map-2013-14

Interesting times ahead.

Bring on the super-happy few… and the very pissed off masses.

—TF

 

What the 2013-14 NHL Should Look Like

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It’s pretty safe to assume that the NHL isn’t going to expand or contract any time soon. And it’s just as safe to assume that realignment will happen for the 2013-14 season without any relocations. With that in mind, I’ve put together this recommendation to the powers that be for what a sensible, rivalry-filled and complete NHL alignment should be, compete with schedule details… again, like week 52, this should only be a short-term thing. A 32-team league with an even more sensible alignment would be better.

This is kind of an addendum to the NHL Realignment Project I just finished, but it is laser-focused on being realistic and getting it right (until expansion, anyways).

My main goal was to create an atmosphere for rivalries (cultivate existing ones and hopefully creating new ones). My other “must have” was that every team play in every other team’s building at least once.

Please make this NHL realignment happen. Thanks!

Please make this NHL realignment happen. Thanks!

You’ll probably notice that the divisional alignment is the same as my Week 52 scenario, but now I’ve streamlined and modified the “Rivalry Pods” from that proposal. The rivalry pods are made up of one team from each of the divisions in the conference, paying attention (where possible) to existing non-divisional rivalries that exist today. Additionally, this rivalry pod concept will make the NHL unique amongst the “Big 4″ North American sports. We all know it’s the best, but a little extra “we’re cooler than you” can only help.

Pod-mates of note:

DET/COL (Draper);

WPG/PHX, MIN/DAL (relocation revenge);

VAN/CHI (duh); EDM/LA (Gretzky);

WSH/PIT (recent playoffs (not to mention Syd and Ovie));

MTL/NYI (two longest Cup dynasties);

TOR/PHI (last champ of the Original Six era and first champ from the Great Expansion);

NYR/BOS (Original Six plus Yankees Red Sox);

FLA/BUF/NJ (Three of the four cities with teams in the NFL’s AFC East)

The make-up of the pods can be argued and shifted, but I think this would be the ideal set up for a slightly realigned NHL.

I could see this happening.

Maybe we’ll be lucky and it actually will.

 

— TeeEff

NHL Realignment Project – Week 52

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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