Sunday, July 15, 2012

NHL Realignment Possibilities

Editor's Note: I wrote this back on my personal blog back in January in response to the NHL's best efforts to chalk out realignment in the league after Atlanta moved to Winnipeg and doesn't belong in the Southeast Division.

The NHLPA shot down the league's proposal for a 4 "conference" alignment stemming from the Atlanta franchise's move to Winnipeg for the 2011-2012 season. I didn't like that alignment either, and the NHLPA gave some very good reasons.

I had originally came up with a 5 division alignment. Now I'm going to throw out all possibilities.

Simple Realignment
Atlanta moved to Winnipeg, but Winnipeg has remained in the Southeast Division. Move Winnipeg to the Northwest Division to be with Minnesota (435 miles away), Edmonton (817 miles), and Calgary (825 miles). Colorado can then move to the Pacific Division, and Dallas to the Central Division, and Nashville to the Southeast Division. That's easier than it sounds.

5 Division Alignment
6 teams in each division. It's a little different from my original plan.
Los Angeles Chicago Dallas Washington Columbus
Anaheim Detroit Nashville Philadelphia Toronto
Phoenix Minnesota St. Louis New Jersey Ottawa
San Jose Winnipeg Florida NY Rangers Montreal
Colorado Edmonton Tampa Bay NY Islanders Buffalo
Vancouver Calgary Carolina Boston Pittsburgh

Play 3 home-and-home series with each team in your division (30 games). Play 1 home-and-home series with each other team (48 games). Play 1 additional game against 1 team from each other conference. Do it based on prior season's standings, so the five 4th place teams each play one another one additional time. Let a formula and rotation dictate which teams host which other teams. Similar to the NFL's schedule formula. For example, let's say that the table above is the standings. Colorado would play an extra game against Edmonton, Tampa Bay, NY Islanders, and Buffalo; In addition to Colorado, Edmonton would also play Tampa Bay, NY Islanders, and Buffalo. And so on. That's a total of 82 games.

Since there's 5 divisions, there is no longer the concept of 2 Conferences (you can't split 5 divisions in half). So have a super-playoff of 16 teams, with 5 division winners being ranked among themselves 1-5 and 11 wild cards being ranked 6-16 (similar to each Conference's playoffs with 3 division winners and 5 wild cards).

Hear me out. Forget divisions. Just have 2 conferences of 15 teams each or 3 conferences of 10 teams each. Now, there are some possibilities here. You can go East/West. You can go North/Mid-America/South. You can go random/mixed and call it Wales/Campbell.

East West
Montreal Toronto Anaheim Los Angeles
Ottawa Boston San Jose Vancouver
NY Islanders NY Rangers Phoenix Colorado
New Jersey Philadelphia Calgary Edmonton
Washington Carolina Winnipeg Minnesota
Florida Tampa Bay Chicago Detroit
Buffalo Pittsburgh St. Louis Nashville
Columbus Dallas

2 home-and-home series with each team in your conference (56 games). 1 home-and-home series with each team in the other conference (30 games). And either expand the season by 4 games (and probably 1 week in the calendar), or cut 4 non-conference games off the schedule.

Top 8 teams in each conference in the playoffs. From there, it's the same as it is today.

North Mid-America South
Montreal Boston Florida
Ottawa NY Islanders Tampa Bay
Toronto NY Rangers Nashville
Buffalo New Jersey Dallas
Detroit Philadelphia Phoenix
Minnesota Washington Los Angeles
Winnipeg Chicago Anaheim
Calgary Columbus Colorado
Edmonton Pittsburgh St. Louis
Vancouver San Jose Carolina

3 home-and-home series within your conference (54 games). 1 home-and-home series outside your conference (20 games). 8 additional non-conference games to be split 2 home and 2 road in each of the other 2 divisions. 82 games total.

3 Conference winners and 13 wild card teams.

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