The conflagration of conference realignment hits the coolest game on Earth

ESPN reports:

NHL officials approved a radical realignment plan Monday that will give the league four conferences instead of six divisions and guarantee home-and-home series among all teams.

The Board of Governors authorized commissioner Gary Bettman to implement the proposal pending input from the NHL Players’ Association. It could be put in place as early as next season.

The board opted to go with the more dramatic switch, creating four geographic conferences — two with eight teams and two with seven.

The new format will increase overall travel in the regular season, especially for Eastern Conference teams who will now have more trips West. But it cuts down on travel for some Western Conference teams, which was a critical issue for teams like Detroit, Dallas, Columbus and Nashville.

This deal isn’t finalized– the NHLPA still have to approve it, and players seem confused (“‘I don’t even really get it,’ Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said”)– but it seems like it will be without substantial changes. The new conference alignment would look like this:

Conference “A”
Anaheim
Calgary
Colorado
Edmonton
Los Angeles
Phoenix
San Jose
Vancouver
Conference “B”
Chicago
Columbus
Dallas
Detroit
Minnesota
Nashville
St. Louis
Winnipeg
Conference “C”
Boston
Buffalo
Florida
Montreal
Ottawa
Tampa Bay
Toronto
Conference “D”
Carolina
New Jersey
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Washington

While this plan does represent a change for the league, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, especially after coming off this fall’s conference realignment escapades in college football. There’s no sign of back-room, media conglomerate puppet mastery, and the triggering event here was the mere transplantation of a franchise from Atlanta to Winnipeg. One can only hope that the NHL consults with anyone on the planet besides the Big Ten for help in naming its new conferences.

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3 thoughts on “The conflagration of conference realignment hits the coolest game on Earth

  1. Grantland Triangle blogger Katie Baker reported on some of the consequences of this realignment plan, the most significant of which appears to me to be the potential outcome on the nature of the playoffs:

    “One of the most fun things about hockey has long been the free-for-all nature of the playoffs — all you have to do, really, is get in. Almost every year the battle for the last handful of playoff spots goes down to the wire, and even eking your way in as the no. 8 seed doesn’t give you that long of a shot; since the league went to its existing “top eight in each conference” playoff format in 1994, the no. 8 team has upset the top seed nine times in 34 tries, better than 1-in-4 odds. (Chicago almost made it 10 teams last year, taking Vancouver to seven games.) Under the new format, only four teams from each conference make the postseason, where they will then play two rounds against one another, marking the end of those no. 8 seed Cinderella runs. There will also be the grim, new reality that a team could potentially have more points than postseason-bound teams from all three other conferences and still have to hit the golf course early if it’s fifth within its own conference. Finally, we could see MLB-like scenarios in which the best two teams in the NHL play each other in the earliest rounds.”

    Read the rest of her take at http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/11547/the-winners-and-losers-of-nhl-realignment.

  2. Hold the phone. I wrote above: “This deal isn’t finalized– the NHLPA still have to approve it, and players seem confused (“‘I don’t even really get it,’ Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said”)– but it seems like it will be without substantial changes.”

    Wrong again. Second time this week. (#1: http://wp.me/p1HCMe-Ee.)

    Brendan just forwarded this:

    Realignment plan on hold, NHLPA withholds consent: http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2012/01/06/realignment-plan-on-hold-nhlpa-witholds-consent/related.

    According to the story, the players did not consent to the proposal, described in the main post above, because of extra travel and the playoff structure. The article author also speculates that this may be posturing in advance of upcoming CBA negotiations.

    Because what hockey really needs is a contentious labor dispute.

  3. Pingback: NHL realignment: Take two | ALDLAND

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