NHL Realignment: Four Solutions That Would Preserve Rivalries and Lower Travel

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NHL Realignment: Four Solutions That Would Preserve Rivalries and Lower Travel
Picture from: http://mikekatz24.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/nhl-map2.jpg

The NHL will (hopefully) realign for the 2013-14 season due to the move that sent the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg to become the Jets last summer.

This leaves Winnipeg in a division with the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. 

So, every divisional trip for the Jets is over 1,000 miles of flight, and every trip for one of these four teams to Winnipeg is the same story.

Additionally, because the Jets are in the Eastern Conference (despite being located to the west of multiple Western Conference teams), they must endure a lot of traveling before most of their other games as well.

There are other problems around the NHL that need to be solved by realignment as well.

The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets are in the Eastern Time Zone, yet they play in the Western Conference. While the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche have to do quite a bit of traveling within their respective divisions as well.

The NHL had a realignment plan that was expected to be put in place for the upcoming 2012-13 season, but it was rejected by the NHLPA. If it were passed, the setup would look like this:

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

Did you like the original realignment plan?

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With this plan, each division would have its own playoff bracket, as the top four teams would face off. The champions of each bracket would then face each other, with the highest-ranked champion playing the lowest-ranking one and the middle two playing each other (rankings would be based off of the regular season standings). The winners of these series would play each other for the Stanley Cup.

The problem with this plan would be that two divisions have seven teams and two divisions have eight teams. So, the odds of making the playoffs would be different based on how many teams were in each division.

What would be another option for realignment?

Some are saying that a simple swap-Nashville-for-Winnipeg move would do the trick. I personally would not like how Nashville, which is in the Central Time Zone, would get to play in the East while Detroit and Columbus don't.

Also, the Colorado and Dallas issues would still exist. Obviously there are ways to switch this (Winnipeg to Northwest, Colorado to Pacific, Dallas to Central), but this proposal still does not solve a lot of problems and would seem lazy on the NHL's part.

Here are some proposals that I came up with that would help travel-wise in the NHL.

 

Proposal A

Which of these proposals is the best?

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Western Conference

 

Central: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis
Northwest: Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota, Vancouver, Winnipeg
Southwest: Anaheim, Colorado, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic: Carolina, Florida, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington
Great Lakes: Buffalo, Detroit, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Toronto
Northeast: Boston, Montreal, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers

 

I really like this plan, as it makes the most sense geographically. If you take a look at a map of NHL teams, you would see that this cuts down travel for almost every team.

There is no way to make everyone happy, as some would be upset that Toronto is separate from Montreal; however, they would still be with Buffalo and Ottawa as well as former rival Detroit. Montreal would still be with the archrival Bruins as well as Original Six member New York Rangers.

Which playoff system would you like better?

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Toronto was also in a separate division AND conference before the current realignment was applied. Fans didn't seem to have a huge problem then.

Philadelphia could get the short end of the stick rivalry-wise, but fans would likely be treated to an easier division to win, therefore creating more successful Flyer teams.

 

 

Proposal B

 

Western Conference

Central: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
West: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

 

Eastern Conference

Atlantic: Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington
Northeast: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Toronto

Would expansion be a good idea to help improve travel and realignment?

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This is the same type of four-division setup that the NHL proposed earlier, but the difference would be that there is no divisional playoff.

I really like the idea of a divisional playoff, but instead, there are fifteen teams in each conference with this proposal. Therefore, the playoff setup would remain much the same as the current one. The top two seeds in this case would be division winners and the remaining six would be the top six non-division winners.

Since there would be fifteen teams in each conference, the odds of making the playoffs are not necessarily any different per conference.

 

 

Proposal C

Division A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Division B: Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Division C: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Columbus, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Washington
Division D: Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay

 

 

This is why I think expansion would be a good idea. The divisional playoff would work with eight teams in every division, and both Detroit and Columbus would be able to move into divisions where they don't have to worry about traveling West very often.

Also, almost every rivalry is kept intact with this proposal, and several new ones would be formed: Milwaukee-Minnesota and Kansas City-St. Louis would be terrific.

 

Proposal D

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

 

This was the first proposal I came up with over a year ago when the announcement of the Atlanta-to-Winnipeg move was made. I'm not sure how to do playoffs because it is tough to form conferences with this plan and some divisions also have more teams than others.

I based this off of the plan that came before the current plan, with the Adams, Norris, Patrick and Smythe Divisions.

This would probably be the least effective out of my proposals, but I put it up here in case anyone liked it.

So, what do you think? Are any of these better than the NHL's rejected plan? Before you comment or come up with proposals, make sure you take a look at the map in order to see what makes the most sense travel-wise.

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