What If There Was Only One Conference in the NHL?

Matt HunterCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2009

In today's NHL, there are 30 teams spread across the country. There are 15 teams per conference, each vowing for one of eight playoff spots.

What would happen if the NHL decided to just completely get rid of an Eastern and Western Conference and just have the NHL play in one big league?

Think about it—teams and franchises complain that they do not get to see certain teams enough throughout a season because of the current scheduling issues. Teams out West do not get to see very many teams in the East and when they do, it is only for a game or two.

The NHL could benefit greatly by having one conference, because now you will have big market teams like Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Washington playing against teams who may only see them once a year.

This allows for the marketing side of the NHL to take complete advantage of the one conference format. They could utilize the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Semin, Nabokov, Zetterberg, and many others to boost revenue from cities who are struggling to fill up arenas.

This setup will also forge new rivalries between teams, or maybe begin ones that have been taken away because of the current conference setup. It would be something to see a team like Vancouver play Boston four times in one season, and then maybe have to play them again in a playoff series.

The one conference would just allow for so many more interesting match ups, and also for a very exciting season with teams getting the chance to play everybody a lot more than just once.

The only time you would see an Eastern-Western matchup would be in the All-Star game. It is an easy way to determine which players will play where, and since the current system is setup like this it would be like nothing has changed, and it will not take anymore time or money in figuring out where players will play.

The other part of the one conference system would be the playoff system. It would be the top sixteen teams in the league making it which could lead to a very exciting finish to a season with the bottom eight or so teams fighting for position down the stretch.

If the NHL were like this today, the Eastern Conference would boast having 10 teams in the playoffs while Western Conference would be sending six teams.

If the playoffs were to start today, this is what the first round matchups would look like.

1. Detroit vs. 16. Buffalo
2. San Jose vs. 15. Columbus
3. Boston vs. 14. Florida
4. New Jersey vs. 13. Carolina
5. Washington vs. 12. New York Rangers
6. Calgary vs. 11. Montreal
7. Philadelphia vs. 10. Vancouver
8. Chicago vs. 9. Pittsburgh

These matchups would lead to some very interesting first round series. Especially the Chicago-Pittsburgh matchup, which would start the playoffs off with four of the most talented young players in the NHL.

It is just something interesting to think about, when you visualize an NHL as an open conference, and teams being able to play each other a lot more than they currently are in opposite conferences.

Though this will more than likely never happen ever, I still think that it would be something interesting to try just to see how everything would work out.