The NHL Board of Governors approved a realignment plan on Monday that will totally reshape the NHL landscape for years to come, and ultimately, it was a great move for the sport.
Some challenge for the league in figuring out a good realignment plan included helping teams who travel through multiple time zones often in a season and to maintain rivalries between certain clubs.
For the most part, the board of governors did a great job addressing these concerns. This radical change will take some getting used to, but the league will benefit.
Let's look at how the new system looks and why it's good for the NHL.
Gone is the old format of two East and West conferences with six total divisions. Now, there are four conferences.
Two conferences have seven teams, and two have eight. Geographical considerations were a part of how the conferences were made up and why certain teams were paired with each other.
The NHL did a good job of making sure teams play many of their games in a certain area geographically while at the same time keeping traditional rivals like the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens in the same conference.
The conferences have yet to be named.
Now I will give you five reasons why the new alignment plan is good for the league.
Image in this slide taken from NHL.com
One challenge the board of governors had during the realignment process was to place teams in a conference that was geographically beneficial to them.
After looking at the new conferences, the league did a tremendous job overall regarding this issue.
For example, the Winnipeg Jets won't have to travel all the way from Canada to Florida that often to play the Lightning and Panthers as part of the Southeast division.
The Jets will play teams closer to them much more often, such as the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
The only teams that have to travel a lot still will be the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, whose conference includes the Northeast teams such as the Bruins, Canadiens and Maple Leafs.
Having teams play other teams near them will allow players to be better rested. Also, fans will have an easier time seeing their favorite team play in road arenas.
Here's an explanation of how the Stanley Cup playoffs would work under the new alignment plan.
"The top four teams in each Conference qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first-place team would play the fourth-place team; the second-place team would play the third-place team. The four respective Conference champions would meet in the third round of the Playoffs, with the survivors playing for the Stanley Cup."
With the new conferences set up the way they are, we could see the following matchups more often in the playoffs:
Bruins vs. Canadiens Flyers vs. Penguins
Flyers vs. Rangers Rangers vs. Penguins
Canucks vs. Sharks Red Wings vs. Blackhawks
I don't know about you but those are some awesome matchups. Each of those teams are in a division with the other, meaning if they both finish in the top four of their conference, they could likely face each other.
The Rangers for example, might have to beat the Flyers and the Penguins to get to the Stanley Cup Final in the next few seasons, which will be a pretty tough road.
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin will also play in the same conference, hopefully, setting up some Penguins versus Capitals playoffs series soon.
It was vitally important to keep the historic rivalries, especially ones involving Original Six teams, intact so that they can continue for years to come.
Rivalries such as Bruins vs. Canadiens, Red Wings vs. Blackhawks, Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs and Flyers vs. Penguins, Flyers vs. Rangers and Oilers vs. Flames were all kept in tact.
All these teams have rivals in their division, which will maintain that these teams play their rivals often and create many exciting moments throughout the season.
Under the current system, each NHL team does not play everyone else at home and away. For example, the Bruins, this season, traveled to Chicago but won't host the Blackhawks in Boston.
The new system will ensure every team plays all the other ones at least twice, once home and away.
This is awesome, because now, fans get to see all the stars and matchups they dream of seeing.
All the fans on the East coast will get to see West coast playoff teams like the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks at least once per season.
For the Original Six teams, each of them will play each other at least twice per season, which is awesome for the NHL.
With the new conferences set up, adding teams and relocating them could be a smoother process.
Conference C has many of the Northeast division teams, so if Quebec City finally gets another NHL franchise, they would be able to slide into that conference.
If a team like the Red Wings or Blue Jackets needs to be moved to Conference D with many of the Atlantic teams, that could work without major travel difficulties.
In all, the conferences allow for teams to move from conference to conference due to relocation and/or expansion without causing major problems. It's not a perfect system of course, some teams will benefit more than others.
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