So as most of you have likely heard by now, Gary Bettman has decided to mess with the conferences/divisions and change everything up, just to drive people crazy. (Yes it is driving me crazy) I'm a huge believe that if something isn't broken don't fix it, but unfortunately I am not a GM and had no say in the matter of realigning all the NHL teams. I am a tad bit confused by all this, but I'm going to break it down my annoyance for you the best I can.
This new system is likely to be put into place as early as next NHL season with the GM's approving Bettman's idea in a lopsided vote (26-4). Basicallythere will be 4 conferences, not divisions, conferences. Say sayonara to the Eastern and Western conferences and hello to 4 new conferences without divisions. Two of the new conference's will have 7 teams, while the other 2 will have 8 teams. The new conferences are; 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 and
Conference D: Carolina, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.
All is not bad however, as I really like, that each team will play all 29 other teams in a home and home at some point during the year. As an example, let's look at conference C; the Sabres will have to play the teams in their conference 5 or 6 times a year (trying to build/exploit rivalries). Instead of the usual 3 or 4, but the Sabres will also have to fly to Vancouver and Calgary to play the Canucks and Flames once a season. So it adds extra travel to the teams. Perhaps the biggest implication with the new conferences is the playoff system; The top 4 teams from EACH conference will make the playoffs, regardless of their record. Then the 1stplace team will play 4th place and 2nd will play 3rd in the first round. After that the winners of those matches will play each other in the second round. Then the "final four" will go on to play one of the other conference champions to determine the cup final. So here's an example here; The first place Sabres face off against the 4th place Sens, and second place Leafs face off against the third place Bruins. As would probably happen, the Sabres and Bruins both win, and then have to face each other, then the winner (Sabres) of that match would play the champion from another conference.There could potentially be an East vs. East or West vs. West playoff battle or East vs. West at that point. One of the major decisions to change the conferences, is to put the emphasis back on the divisional rivalries. For the first time in a while the battle of Ontario will actually matter, between the Leafs and Sens, since chances are that both teams won't make the postseason.
With all that said let's now look into some of teams that are "losers" with this realignmen;
The newly forming rivalry between Vancouver and Chicago, since they are now in different conference's, and won't be able to face each other in playoffs till at least the 3rd round. But there is the possibility that they could also meet in the cup final!
How about Carolina, New Jersey, and the NY Islanders; they haven't done the greatest in the last few years, are now stuck in a division with the Capitals, Penguins, Flyers and re surging Rangers. It might be a long couple years for Carolina, New Jersey and the Islanders to get to the playoffs. But on the plus side, it may force their top players to step their game up instead of being embarrassed all the time.
How about the Winnipeg Jets; Now I'm sure Jets fans are just happy to have their team back, but assuming that doesn't last forever and one day they want to watch playoff hockey too, look at their new division, oops sorry their conference; not one single other Canadian team. Meaning although they are the 7th Canadian team, they won't be helping mature any with Canadian rivalries, they might as well go back to Atlanta.
Having 8 teams in both the A and B conferences, makes it just a little harder to make the playoffs, especially for teams in the middle of a rebuild.
Let's quickly hear from a couple of GM's on the matter.
Brian Burke of the Leafs “There’s times when you can vote with your league hat on, that’s what we tried to do.” “My concern is the added burden on the players,”
Nashville Predators GM David Poile; "“I’ve been a GM in both conferences, and I know what the competitive advantages are, I think (the governors) did the right thing. This will be good for most teams in the league, if not everybody (the vote was 26-4)."
Jet's GM Dave Chipman “We’re very excited about this. There are three things about this that I really like. Central time zone will be important for us from a travel standpoint and from a broadcast perspective. Our fans will be able to watch our games at a regular time. If we had gone into the Northwest there would have been a fair number of games coming from the West Coast and starting later. Two, we get two Original Six teams. I don’t even know how to quantify that. Those are high watermark organizations that you aspire to play and be like. So that’s great. The other outcome is our fans will get to see every team, every year. We like that.”
Red Wings GM Ken Holland; "We're thrilled,"
What is still left to determine is how the conferences will get their names. Many are suggesting some of the old great players; Gretzky, Orr, Howe Lemiouex. Other idea's floating around, are getting sponsors, to sponsor the conference's (coco-cola) or something silly like that.
So after writing this and thinking about it, I like the new alignment idea, basically the NHL has taken the 2 conferences and split them into 2 more divisions, and switched a couple teams. So here a few of the things I like about it, and a couple of things I'm not a huge fan of; I really like the fact that there is a possibility of a East vs. East or West vs. West Stanley cup final! imagine, we could one day possibly have an Boston vs. Philadelphia or Vancouver vs. Chicago cup final! If those match-ups happened it would be a huge marketing tool for the NHL. I also like the fact that every team will be able to face every other team twice a season, so the Sabres and Canucks can play against each other. One of the things that interests me a ton, is that there will be more importance on conference games now that only 4 teams from each conference make it, so like I pointed out earlier, the battle of Ontario will actually matter between the Leafs and Sens. So the conference rivals will be revamped again and new rivalries will hopefully be formed.
One of the things I'm not a huge fan of, is the possibility of a team from one conference having less points than another team in a different conference, but will still make it to the post season because they are in the top 4. For example if the Leafs with 88 points finish in 4th in their conference and the Rangers with 94 points finish in 5th the Rangers don't make the playoffs. So when you look at it that way it has a few flaws, but it just puts more importance on divisional rivalries! Those complaining about the extra travel for the teams, I'm indifferent of this issue, they are professional athletes getting paid a butt load of money, I think they can suck up the travel issues.
So now that I've taken the time to figure out whats going on, and explain it, in the simplest terms I can, I really like this realignment. I think the conference races will add some more excitement and really help to build up rivalries, so I'm looking forward to this being implemented hopefully next season.