Outta’ Right Field: NHL realignment: more pain than gain

By Jesse Gaunce
December 6, 2011

The NHL Board of Governors approved a radical  realignment plan on Monday, Dec. 5, that will eliminate the current two-conference, six-division set up, mostly due to the Atlanta Thrashers becoming the Winnipeg Jets and to rid geographical gripes among several Western teams.

Beginning with the 2012-13 season, there will be four conferences, which are currently unnamed. Two of these conferences will feature seven East-based teams and the other two will feature eight West-based teams.

Conference rivals will play each other six times a year and will play everyone else in the league twice; once at home and once on the road.

In the first unnamed East-based conference, you have Philadelphia, New Jersey, both New York teams, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Washington. In the second conference, you have Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, Florida and Tampa Bay.

Moving to the West-based teams, in one conference you have Detroit, Chicago, Columbus, Nashville, Minnesota, St. Louis, Winnipeg and Dallas. In the other, you have Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Colorado and Phoenix.

The top four teams in each conference will make the playoffs, so 16 teams will still make the playoffs. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be played within the conferences and then each champion of their respective conferences will be reseeded for the third round with the remaining two teams playing for the Stanley Cup.

Confused? I was too. Here’s a clear example.

Say Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Vancouver all win their respective conferences. Depending on seeding, Boston could play Chicago and Philly could play Vancouver in the third round of the playoffs with the winners playing for the Cup. That being said, we could see a Boston-Philadelphia Stanley Cup matchup or a Vancouver-Chicago matchup in the near future.

Crazy, right? Funny thing is, any two teams used to be able to play each other for the Cup up until 1981.

There are things that I think fans will like and not like about this realignment.

It gives fans a chance to see their favorite team play every other team in the league and could majorly intensify certain rivalries like Boston and Philadelphia, and Vancouver and Chicago. Imagine how incredibly entertaining it would be to watch these already-heated rivals go at it for the title.

The one downside I see is that a team in a stronger conference that has more points than a team in a weaker conference could potentially miss the playoffs.

Other than that, I’m halves on this whole thing because I like the set up the NHL currently has but this definitely has the potential to make the playoffs even more exciting than they already are.

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Jesse Gaunce

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