I am putting two more teams into the NHL, re-aligning the divisions, and bringing back the divisional playoffs.
For a long time now I have been hearing that the next two NHL teams will be added in Las Vegas and Ontario. You all know that as an American—who believes strongly in taking the needed time to build a hockey culture in southern American cities—I have been a huge supporter of what I have seen in Nashville and Tampa. Dallas has shown the way and created the model that all other new markets should follow.
However, in the difficult economic times going on, I am straying from my usual theory that you will create a million more hockey fans by putting a team into a big southern city in America than you will by putting another team in Toronto. It is simply too difficult to put a team into a new market when you are cash strapped.
Therefore, I am awarding my two franchises to the great cities that never should have lost their franchises in the first place, and welcoming back the Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques!
Also, I am going to realign the divisions in a much different way. Currently the divisions are aligned by time zones running from east to west. That method made sense when you were dealing with teams that were only in America. Coast to coast it is 3,000 miles, but the distance from Dallas to Minneapolis is 900 miles.
However, when you add Canada to the equation, it is still 3,000 miles across. However, the distance from Dallas to Edmonton is nearly 2,000 miles.
Therefore, my realignment is going to be different.
Here are my divisions:
The American Southern Division:
I am putting these teams together because they really do share a sports culture already that is not being taken advantage of in my opinion. College football and basketball are huge among these fanbases and that should be taken into account. Rivalries already exist here. Just go to a game in Carolina and check out the tailgate to know what I mean.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Columbus Blue Jackets
The American Eastern Division
These teams are all essentially within an eight-hour drive of each other. Most are within a five-hour drive. Bringing the Capitals back into a division with the Flyers and Penguins is really important. These teams have great rivalries and are only a three-to-four hour car ride from one another.
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils
The American Western Division
Let’s put Minnesota back into the old Adams Division. The Rivalries the North Stars had with the old Blues, Wings, and Hawks were awesome to witness. It is true that there will be more travel here for many of these teams, but really we are talking the difference of an hour plane trip.
Detroit Red Wings
St. Louis Blues
San Jose Sharks
Los Angeles Kings
The Canadian Northern Division
Putting all of the Canadian teams in the same division will do incredible things for the sport. Having watched a lot of Hockey Night in Canada games and TSN I can tell you that there is an amazing excitement that exists when these teams face off with one another.
The playoffs would be incredibly intense and you would guaranteed a Canadian team all the way to the Conference Finals. That is a 50 percnt chance of a Canadian team in every Stanley Cup final. TSN, CBC, and Sportsnet can thank me later.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Here is how the schedule would work.
You play all 24 out of division teams twice. Once home and once away. 48 games.
You play your divisional teams six times each, for a total of 42 games
I know what you are thinking—a 90 game schedule?
Well, what you do is you eliminate the NHL pre-eason schedule, for which fans are already being forced to buy tickets. The preseason is brutal anyway and consists of way too many games. You can play a few exhibition games in your practice rinks and maybe one preseason game for charity.
Now here is the way the playoffs would work:
No. 1 plays No. 4, No. 2 plays NO. 3, winners play, and a divisional champion would emerge.
Imagine the excitement in Canada to see who the “Canadian Champion” is each year!
As Hockey God, I would eliminate the Conferences completely, and instead the four divisional champions would be re-seeded based on their records outside of their divisions. This would be perfectly fair, since the teams all play a balanced out-of-division schedule.
So let’s just say the following teams win their divisional playoffs.
The South - Dallas
The East - Washington
The West - Detroit
The North - Calgary
In their 48 out-of-division games they had the following records:
(Oh, and I would also eliminate points for losses)
So the newly named “Stanley Cup Semifnals” would be 1-4, 2-3 in this particular season:
Washington would have home ice over Dallas
Detroit would have home ice over Calgary
And then of course the winners would play for the Stanley Cup. And that Stanley Cup winning team would go on to play a team that won in the finals of the newly formed Euro NHL for the World Cup—well maybe...
I like Eklund’s idea a lot. First of all, bringing back two of the most-missed teams in the modern NHL is awesome. If half of the rules the NHL have today exist back in the Jets' and Nordiques' time, both teams would still be there.
I mean if anything, the move of the Jets to Phoenix has proved unsuccessful both in terms of team performance and market return. Although, the same couldn’t be said to the Avs-Nordiques.
Aside from the teams, I think the division re-alignment makes a lot of sense! North, East, South, West—four divisions are simple enough.
As for the Northern Division which only consists of Canadian teams, I think is an even better idea. Ensuring a Canadian team in the conference finals will make a lot of Canadian fans happy. I mean there are American teams are the majority here, and the League should stop protecting the US-based teams and start aiding the minority Canadian teams with a huge fan base.
The schedule is also a good idea. I think in any league, every team should at least play every other team once in a season, or else how could you consider them within the same league?
Playing your division rivals six times sounds like it would be enough, otherwise it will make the rivalry a bit boring for fans.
Divisional Champions are “nice-to-have” trophies for a teams accomplishment in any season. I mean, we see a lot of great teams every year, and although having just one cup is exactly the reason why it’s so sought after, having some kind of confirmation for more than just one team’ success is great for marketing.
I think they should bring back the old division names as well, Patrick, Adams, Smythe and Norris sounds soooo much better than Northeastern or Central division!!! It shows the sport’s heritage!!!
Eklund’s last suggestion is a bit wild. Having the Stanley Cup champion playing against the champion of Euro NHL for the World Cup would minimize the meaning of the Stanley Cup’s ultimate glory, doesn’t it?
I know he’s partly joking on this one, but what would it mean if the Euro NHL Champion defeats the Stanley Cup Champion. Does this mean that the NHL is no longer the best league in the world? If the Euro NHL continuously loses to the NHL, then what’s the point of this match or this World Cup?
But anyways, I think it’s an interesting idea, something for us to think and talk about.
It’s a great idea, I hope someone will share this with Bettman.