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 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

Could Seattle even support new NBA and NHL teams? | Seattle PI Sports Blog – seattlepi.com

Not sure I agree 100% with the purely even division of population to sports teams (not apples to apples, when a city doesn’t have team from a “less popular” league like the WNBA or the MLS), but I like the concept. Interesting stuff.

—TF

Could Seattle even support new NBA and NHL teams? | Seattle PI Sports Blog – seattlepi.comn »

NHL Realignment Project – Week 45

NHL Realignment Project - Week 45

 

Red Hot & Blue

This is probably going to be the shortest write up of all time, because I’d written the longest write up of all time, then thanks to my Magic Mouse and OS X Lion on my Mac, an accidental and tiny single finger swipe acts as a “back button” and I lost it all. Good times. Anyhoo… this is only 8 days later than it was scheduled to be released, but here we go (additional excuse is the badass History of the NHL infographic i posted today).

This week, the King of North America makes folks in Carolina red with rage and people in Columbus ever so blue. But to compensate, the residents of Seattle and Quebec City are now very loyal and happy subjects.

 

The Map:

NHL Realignment Map - Week 45

NHL Realignment Map - Week 45

 

The Breakdown:

Seems like more fans prefer the 2 Conference alignment, than the 4 Conference one, so I’ll go with majority opinion this week. But, since I now follow Gary Bettman on Twitter (he has THREE tweets!), let’s make him happy too and keep the conference names geographic.

The Pacific is now called the Southwest Division since Colorado and Phoenix are not even in the same time zone as the Pacific Coast. I couldn’t come up with a name to replace “Atlantic” but I’m sure that Detroit fans will be so overjoyed to be out of the Western Conferene, that they won’t mind. If any of you have a name that makes more sense for an eastern division that strays pretty far away from the coast, I’m all ears (aka put it in the comments).

 

Gained teams:

Quebec City, Seattle

 

Lost teams:

Columbus and Carolina (hey, Phoenix won their division, we’ve got to throw them a bone this week, right?)

 

The Benefits:

• Travel — Only team with any legitimate beef is Winnipeg. But the folks in Manitoba will be more than thrilled to trade some late starts out West for much more meaningful rivals from Alberta and BC. Other than the Jets no team has to travel more than one time zone over for in-division games. Commence rejoicing, people of Dallas and the Twin Cities!

• The East gets its Wings — Commence rejoicing, people of Detroit!

• Fairness — Divisions are made up of exactly the same number of teams. Everyone has the exact same chance to make the playoffs as everyone else… math says so! (Math doesn’t care that one five team division might have 4 amazing teams while another division might only have 2). Happy now, NHLPA?

• Rivalries —  While I admit that some traditional rivalries are lost (PHI/NYR, DET/CHI), the vast majority of the big rivalries remain intact (TOR/MTL, TOR/OTT, NYR/NJD, NYR/NYI, PIT/PHI, EDM/CGY to name a few). Besides my scheduling (see below) demands that every team plays every team both home and away at least once each… even the Wings and Hawks will still have a couple of tilts (not to mention what an amazing Stanley Cup finals that would be). Watch for great new rivalries in SEA/VAN, MTL/QBC and even DAL/NSH (trust me on this one).

 

Scheduling:

Each team plays all it’s non-conference opponents once at home and once on the road: 2 games x 15 teams = 30 games

Each team plays its in-division opponents three times at home and three times on the road: 6 games x 4 teams = 24 games

Each team plays its in-conference (non-divisional) opponents once at home and once on the road: 2 games x 10 teams = 20 games

And finally, each team plays an additional home-and-home series against two teams from each of the in-conference divisions not its own. This will cycle through all 10 such opponents in less than 3 seasons: 2 games x 4 teams = 8 games

30 games + 24 games + 20 games + 8 games = 82 games

 

Playoffs:

Just ‘cuz, I’m making playoff qualification be mostly about divisional positioning, but with more conference “escape hatches” than Gary’s rejected “top four are in” plan.

• Top two teams in each division qualify automatically (Division Champ and Runner Up)

• Two best records in the conference outside of the divisional “top-two” also qualify.

• Divisional positioning only guarantees a spot in the tournament, not seeding. The eight teams that qualify are seeded 1-8 based on record.

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

• Round Two: Conference Semifinals — Round One survivors are reseeded. 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. Best record earns home-ice advantage)

 

Tease:

The next NHLRP installment (or maybe the one after that) will finally touch on something for you football (round ball, actual foot use) fans. Two words for you… AHL & Relegation! ***DROPS MIC—WALKS OUT DOOR***

 

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 ».

NHL Realignment Project – Week 44

NHL Realignment Project - Week 44

 

There Is No Spoon

Neo, this message was intercepted from the machine communication network. It shows a system of “Bread and Circuses” that the machines have implemented to placate the masses. As we all know, some time in the early 21st Century (right after Gary Bettman relinquished his post), ice hockey overtook all other sports in North America to become THE main spectator sport for the region. The machines have realigned the sport in the Matrix to maximize it’s appeal and effectiveness, but in doing so have committed a fatal error in judgement (since they don’t have that capacity), they left out the people of Hamilton, Ontario… and everyone knows how rabid they are. Study this message and use it to incite a revolt starting in Southern Ontario and spreading across the continent then around the world! You must not fail, Chosen One, for if you do, they may reprogram the Matrix and make Baseball the most popular sport again… or worse, bring back Bettman. Godspeed!

 

——————– BEGIN INTERCEPTED MESSAGE ——————–

Electronic Memo to the Bread-and-Circuses Program—Your efforts to create and maintain a level of acceptance in the minds of the subjugated human fuel cells has been reviewed and deemed a success for the 1,917th cycle. We continue to approve of the use of the top 24 Combined Statistical Areas in the United States (with the inclusion of the largest standalone Metropolitan Statistical Areas of Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and Tampa) and the 8 largest Canadian Census Metropolitan Areas, for the broadest reach and most efficient population inclusion. The following data were written to the database for archiving:

 

The Map (based on a free wallpaper of the NHL created by some foolish human in 2012):

NHL Realignment Map - Matrix

NHL Realignment Map – Matrix

 

The Breakdown:

The breaking down of the league into two conferences of control is a legacy format based on the 1967 expansion and bifurcation of the NHL, and subsequently continued by a our operative, Agent Bettman upon achieving his super-admin post on February 1, 1993.

Each conference is further subdivided into four divisions to help further regional collectivism and rivalry (and thus facilitate control) of the humans therein.

 

Gained teams from the above-mentioned map:

Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston, Orlando, Quebec City, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle

 

Lost teams from the above-mentioned map:

Columbus, Buffalo, Uniondale, Newark, Nashville, Anaheim

 

The Benefits:

• Efficient Dispersal of Most Effective Human Control Agent — Their love of their local hockey team and their loathing of the teams based in other locations (most notably accentuated by opposing teams situated within the same subdivision as their own).

 

Scheduling:

Each team plays its in-division opponents three times at home and three times on the road: 6 games x 3 teams = 18 games (played in home-and-home series)

Each team plays its in-conference opponents twice at home and twice on the road: 4 games x 12 teams = 48 games (played in home-and-home series)

Each team plays its out-of-conference opponents once at home and once  on the road: 2 games x 16 teams = 32 games (played in home-and-home series)

18 games + 48 games + 32 games = 98 games — ADDITIONAL NOTE: The injection of a fatigue-eliminating sub-program has been an unqualified success.

 

Playoffs (all series best-of-seven in 2-2-1-1-1 format):

• 4 division winners from each conference qualify for the playoffs (seeded #1-#4 by record)

• 4 best records amongst the non-division winners in each conference are awarded wild-card spots (seeded #5-#8 by record)

• Round One: Conference Quarterfinals — #1 vs #8, #2 vs #7, #3 vs #6, #4 vs #5 (home-ice advantage to higher seeded team)

• Round Two: Conference Semifinals — Highest seed vs lowest seed, 2nd highest vs 2nd lowest (home-ice advantage to higher seeded team)

• Round Three: Conference Finals — Remaining two teams in conference (home-ice advantage to higher seeded team)

• Round Four: Stanley Cup Finals — Conference Champions (home-ice advantage goes to team with the best record)

 

Continued Success,

Review Sub-Program — Department of Human Distraction

——————– END INTERCEPTED MESSAGE ——————–

Some notes and a very special thanks this week to the creators of some of the concepts used in the logos:

- Houston Sabres (based on current Buffalo logo)

- Orlando Devils (based on New Jersey Devils concept by Matthiason (DeviantArt Gallery))

- Quebec Tempest (concept by Ryan Barber (Icethetics feature))

- Sacramento Royals (I just crapped that one out, cuz I couldn’t find anything)

- San Diego Ducks (based on current Anaheim Ducks logo)

- Seattle Metros (concept by Ryan Haslett (Icethetics feature))

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 ».


NHL Realignment Project – Week 41

NHL Realignment Project - Week 41

Whale of a Tweak

These week’s entry is only five days late. Which is slightly different than last week’s six days late. In that spirit, this week’s NHL Realignment Scenario is only slightly different than last week’s… nooch!

I know the economic viability is a question, but everyone loves the idea of the Whalers (and their AWESOME uniforms) coming back into the league. for some reason we all have a soft spot for ‘em.

In order to accommodate this and keep last week’s structure, our league is gonna have to lose a team that few (especially Jeff Carter) have any kind of soft spot for… Columbus.

Let’s see the result (Those readers who are extra keen will notice a whole lot of copy/paste from last week… shhhhh!).

NHL Realignment Map - Week 41

NHL Realignment Map - Week 41

 

The Breakdown:

Two relocations plus two expansions equals a 32-team league. Our breakdown this week yields yet another four-conference alignment. Each conference is made up of 8-teams that are reasonably geographically clustered.

Pacific Conference
Anaheim Ducks Phoenix Coyotes
Calgary Flames San Jose Sharks
Edmonton Oilers Seattle Metros*
Los Angeles Kings Vancouver Canucks
Central Conference
Chicago Blackhawks Minnesota Wild
Colorado Avalanche Nashville Predators
Dallas Stars St. Louis Blues
Kansas City Scouts Winnipeg Jets
Northeast Conference
Boston Bruins Montreal Canadiens
Buffalo Sabres Ottawa Senators
Detroit Red Wings Quebec Tempest*
Hartford Whalers Toronto Maple Leafs
Atlantic Conference
Carolina Hurricanes Philadelphia Flyers
Florida Panthers Pittsburgh Penguins
New Jersey Devils Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Rangers Washington Capitals

*Bonus fun—This week, the new teams in Seattle and Quebec City get there names and logos from concepts put forth in the excellent blog, Icethetics. There is a concept page for the the Seattle Metros and the Quebec Tempest (or Tempête). Thought it would be fun to mix it up and give a shout out to a great blog and some amazing work by some of their readers.

 

Gained Teams:

Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City, Hartford

 

Lost Teams:

Long Island, Columbus

 

The Benefits:

• The Whale — C’mon! It’s the whale. Even Brodie from Mallrats knows what’s up.

• Geography/Travel — No division is made up of more than two time-zones. No Eastern Time Zone teams are located in the Western half of the breakdown.

• All-inclusive — Every team visits every other team’s building. The fact that this hasn’t been league policy for so long is a travesty.

• Rivalries —  Other than CHI/DET, all major rivalries are preserved. And as Philly fan and reader of the blog noted this week, many Flyer fans would be more broken up about losing the Rangers and Devils as rivals than the Pens. Many would argue this statement and many would support it… so I made everyone happy and kept all four teams together.

 

Scheduling:

Conference Games: 2 home & 2 away vs. 7 teams = 28 games

Inter-Conference Games: 1 home & 1 away vs. 24 teams = 48 games

An additional Home-and-Away versus a single opponent in each of the conferences not your own (to rotate through the league every 8 years): 1 home & 1 away vs. 3 teams = 6 games

TOTAL = 82 games

 

Playoffs:

Top four in each conference qualify. First two rounds determine Conference Champions. Third round is the semi-finals (with the team with the best regular season record choosing his opponent). Fourth round is the Stanley Cup Finals.

(H/T to oilersnation.com for the original map)

 

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 ».


 

NHL Realignment Project – Week 40

NHL Realignment Project - Week 40

Arena Talk

Crazy deadlines at the real-world job pushed this week’s entry to a very late release… but here it is.

With the news of a potential buyer for the Phoenix franchise, it’s time we switched focus to arenas—who has them, who soon will and who can’t seem to get one built.

Phoenix has a good arena… and maybe with a new owner they can start to spend some money (on marketing, not just players) and people might start showing up to fill that areana (Dallas is going through the same thing now with their new owner Tom Gaglardi). So this week, we’re leaving the Coyotes in the desert and look at a few other cities and their arena situations (good and bad).

The good: Kansas City has an NHL-ready arena just sitting there. The city of Seattle seems to be on the brink of getting one in a year or two. Quebec City is finishing up last details for getting a brand spanking new arena started as well.

The bad: One of the biggest issues arena-wise is out on Long Island. With an owner wanting serious concessions/overtures from the good folks of Nassau County before committing to sticking around, let’s look at a “not-completely-out-of-the-realm-possibility” scenario that has the Islanders moving outta the market completely.

The preemptive strike: Yes I know there are other arena issues out there, but most are based on financial agreement issues (revenue sharing, lease terms), not on structural issues (bad sight lines, low capacity, no luxury boxes, etc). So we’re sticking with the Islanders this week. But I’m sure others fit the mould too.

With three revenue-generating arenas ready or soon to be ready, it’s kind of hard to believe Gary when he says that expansion is not  in the NHL’s near-future (c’mon, did you think the NHL was going was going to allow the league to stay unbalanced for more than a couple of years with their proposed alignment). Expansion fees are where the money’s at for the league… not so much relocation fees. So how do all these pieces fit together? Let’s go to the map:

 

The Map:

NHL Realignment Map - Week 40

NHL Realignment Map - Week 40

The Breakdown:

One relocation plus two expansions equals a 32-team league. Our breakdown this week yields yet another four-conference alignment. Each conference is made up of 8-teams that are reasonably geographically clustered.

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

*Bonus fun—This week, the new teams in Seattle and Quebec City get there names and logos from concepts put forth in the excellent blog, Icethetics. There is a concept page for the the Seattle Metros and the Quebec Tempest (or Tempête). Thought it would be fun to mix it up and give a shout out to a great blog and some amazing work by some of their readers.

 

Gained Teams:

Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City

 

Lost Teams:

Long Island

 

The Benefits:

• Geography/Travel — No division is made up of more than two time-zones. No Eastern Time Zone teams are located in the Western half of the breakdown.

• All-inclusive — Every team visits every other team’s building. The fact that this hasn’t been league policy for so long is a travesty.

• Rivalries —  Other than CHI/DET, all major rivalries are preserved. And as Philly fan and reader of the blog noted this week, many Flyer fans would be more broken up about losing the Rangers and Devils as rivals than the Pens. Many would argue this statement and many would support it… so I made everyone happy and kept all four teams together.

 

Scheduling:

Conference Games: 2 home & 2 away vs. 7 teams = 28 games

Inter-Conference Games: 1 home & 1 away vs. 24 teams = 48 games

An additional Home-and-Away versus a single opponent in each of the conferences not your own (to rotate through the league every 8 years): 1 home & 1 away vs. 3 teams = 6 games

TOTAL = 82 games

 

Playoffs:

Top four in each conference qualify. First two rounds determine Conference Champions. Third round is the semi-finals (with the team with the best regular season record choosing his opponent). Fourth round is the Stanley Cup Finals.

(H/T to oilersnation.com for the original map)

 

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 ».


 

NHL Realignment Project – Week 35

NHL Realignment Project - Week 35

Merge and Move

This week, we’re harkening back to a year in NHL history where it wasn’t about expansion and relocation, but something else… a merger. In 1976 the Cleveland Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars, so we’re running with that precedence and doing a little house cleaning. In a cold, calculated move (based purely on numbers), we’re taking the four teams with the worst attendance this year and merging them into two new teams AND to make it even more fun, we’re moving the two resultant teams to two cities that lost their teams. OBVIOUSLY this never would happen, but I’m still in a farcical mood, avoiding reality-based realignment scenarios at least for another week. Let’s check out the fun…

 

The Map:

NHL Realignment Map - Week 35

NHL Realignment Map - Week 35

 

The Breakdown:

I’m actually gonna go back to the short-lived four-conference setup.

Pacific Conference Central Conference Northeast Conference Atlantic Conference
1. Anaheim Ducks 1. Chicago Blackhawks 1. Boston Bruins 1. Carolina Hurricanes
2. Calgary Flames 2. Detroit Red Wings 2. Buffalo Sabres 2. Florida Panthers
3. Colorado Avalanche 3. Kansas City Scouts 3. Montreal Canadiens 3. Hartford Whalers
4. Edmonton Oilers 4. Minnesota Wild 4. Ottawa Senators 4. New Jersey Devils
5. Los Angeles Kings 5. Nashville Predators 5. Philadelphia Flyers 5. New York Rangers
6. San Jose Sharks 6. St. Louis Blues 6. Pittsburgh Penguins 6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. Vancouver Canucks 7. Winnipeg Jets 7. Toronto Maple Leafs 7. Washington Capitals

 

Gained teams:

Kansas City, Hartford

 

Lost teams:

Phoenix, Dallas, New York Islanders, Columbus

 

The Benefits:

• Travel — No team has conference-mates more than a single time zone over. And while the Pacific and Atlantic Conferences have pretty big north-south trips as part of their make-up, anyone who has traveled understands that that is much less taxing than east-west travel.

• TV Times — Kind of an added bonus from the previous entry, the lack of time zone insanity, keeps start times for most games within reasonable hours. Meaning better ratings and better exposure to/for young fans

• REVENGE — The folks in Hartford and Kansas City can do some happy-flips for getting their teams back. It worked for Winnipeg, right?

• Rivalries —  CHI/DET get to stay together. NY/NJ, PIT/PHI, EDM/CGY too. And KC/STL is reborn! Sorry we couldn’t get Hartford together with Boston, but they do get to jostle with their other traditional rival, NYR.

• Equity —  The conferences are all the same size… seven teams, so no whining.

 

(H/T to oilersnation.com for the original map)

 

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 ».

NHL Realignment Project – Week 33

NHL Realignment Project - Week 33

All the People, All the Time 

Okay, our short-lived happiness (or hatred for many others) of having finally gotten a bold new NHL that accentuates rivalries tries something new and isn’t just and NBA-on-ice is over and done with. Yes, we understand a good chunk of the purpose behind the plan in the first place was to act as a veiled first salvo against the NHLPA in the forthcoming CBA renegotiation… and begrudgingly I have to admit that it was a pretty brilliant calculation by the billionaires getting them the ever-elusive “win-win situation” against the millionaires. But whatever the reasons/ploys/shenanigans (for both the proposal and rejection) NHL realignment is where it is now… a necessary ingredient for future NHL success that is in more treacherous waters than ever AND now with tons of declared “issues” that one side or the other doesn’t want to have included.

So where do we go from here?

My seething anger at the snafu in general, and more specifically, the dark CBA implications that it foreshadows has died down a bit in the last 24 hours and  I’m ready to continue with the NHLRP. This week I’m gonna root my efforts in reality and do my very best to please all the people (we’re supposedly able to do this some of the time, no?).

I’ve cut out the BS, and sold the Phoenix franchise to suitors from Quebec City. The NHL (the league office, that is) is no longer in the business of running teams. If you’re an owner and want out, you find a buyer and you sell. If you can’t, your team is auctioned, and if necessary moved to a new city… and we do the re-alignment dance again.

The basis of this week’s map is this: there are TWO CONFERENCES made up of FIVE DIVISIONS each. Your principal job as a team in the new NHL is to win your division… basically, have a better record than the other two teams in your division and you’re in to the playoffs. The in-division hatred and rivalry will be amped up beyond belief with 8 games versus each of your two division-mates each season. To satisfy the “But wait, I’m in a stronger conference—boo-hoo” camp, if you don’t win your division, there are three wild-card spots in each conference available to sneak in you into the playoffs too. More on all this later. First let’s look at the map.

 

The Map:

NHL Realignment Map - Week 33

NHL Realignment Map - Week 33

 

The Breakdown:

Again, we have two conferences, named after (arguably) the best defenseman and the best forward of all time, Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky. In something more akin to the pod structure we’ve featured in a few past NHLRP entires, the conferences are divided into very small divisions of three teams each. In addition to being all equal in size (addressing one of the grumblings of the NHLPA and others in the now-dead plan), these smaller conferences lend themselves to a much better scheduling/travel structure as we’ll see in a bit as well (addressing an issue both sides have sited). Here is how the teams fit into the divisions. I tried my best to keep geographic and traditional rivals together (this one is mostly for the fans).

The Wayne Gretzky Conference The Bobby Orr Conference
Northwest Northeast
Calgary Flames Boston Bruins
Edmonton Oilers Montreal Canadiens
Vancouver Canucks Quebec Nordiques
   
Central North
Colorado Avalanche Buffalo Sabres
Minnesota Wild Ottawa Senators
Winnipeg Jets Toronto Maple Leafs
   
Heartland Empire
Chicago Blackhawks New Jersey Devils
Columbus Blue Jackets New York Islanders
Detroit Red Wings New York Rangers
   
Pacific Mid-Atlantic
Anaheim Ducks Philadelphia Flyers
Los Angeles Kings Pittsburgh Penguins
San Jose Sharks Washington Capitals
   
South Southeast
Dallas Stars Carolina Hurricanes
Nashville Predators Florida Panthers
St. Louis Blues Tampa Bay Lightning
   

Gained teams:

Quebec City

 

Lost teams:

Phoenix

 

The Benefits:

• Scheduling/Travel — Listen up, NHL and PA (and you too, Red Wings 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. By the way, if you need someone to write a program that will whip out a sample schedule (another of the NHLPA’s beefs, I know a guy… just send us a slice of your millions and billions and consider it done.

• 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, DET/CHI, MTL/BOS, the 3 California teams, the 3 Western Canada teams are all keep alive and well.

• Homage/Heritage — We get to name the two Conferences after two great players who I hear are great guys as well. (Plus with 10 divisions mostly having directional names, I wasn’t about to throw two more directional names into the mix)

• 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 Detroit and 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 Wings and Jackets would only have two more of those than they would have Eastern Time Zone road-trips. The Stars, Ducks, Kings and Sharks no longer have to deal with a divisional opponent two time zones away either. Two MAJOR scheduling issues resolved! If they gave out Nobel Prizes for this kind of work… I’d like your support during the process, everyone. If a Nobel Prize is outta the question, I’d settle for life-time tickets to the Stanley Cup finals……….. or some backlinks.

 

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 is just better when divisions mean more than conferences. 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).

“LAYWERED!”

*Drops Mic*

 

(H/T to oilersnation.com for the original map)

 

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 ».