Radical NHL Realignment

Stop the presses! Er, um… stop pushing publish on those blog posts. The NHL’s Board of Governors has approved a huge change to it’s alignment structure.

There are tons of other stories in Sabreland, i.e, the wheels literally falling off for Matthew Barnaby, theft of jerseys at First Niagara Arena, how Nathan Gerbe is doing after getting a nasty skate to the grill, and later today finding out what Jordin Tootoo’s penalty is (if anything) for his hit on Miller. But mentioning them just gave me a chance to hip you to them and now we can focus on the biggie.

So the realignment of the NHL is a complete overhaul and not just moving around a couple of teams like it was thought to be by many. The new NHL will have four conferences (as yet unnamed):

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

The changes group teams geographically for the most part and appear to alleviate the problems a lot of teams in the Western Conference currently have with traveling two or three time zones.

The Sabres retain their divisional rivals and add a couple new ones in Florida and Tampa Bay.

Here’s how the playoffs would work (from the NHL.com article):

The top four teams in each Conference will qualify for the playoffs. The first-place team in each conference would play the fourth-place team in the same conference; the second-place team would play the third-place team.

The four respective Conference champions would meet in the third round, with the survivors playing for the Stanley Cup.

A decision on how the League will seed the remaining teams for the semifinals will likely not come until the general managers meet in March.

Now, some conferences have seven teams, some have eight. It’s unclear yet how this will be made “fair”, although the Sabres appear to benefit here by only having seven teams in their conference.

Another nice note is that now all teams will play every other team in the league at least twice a year, with a home & away game for each.

The Huffington Post reports that it’s a little murky whether or not the NHLPA has to ratify the realignment. Bettman says the NHL doesn’t need the union’s approval but the NHLPA says otherwise.

Assuming this does go through,  what would the conferences be named? Perhaps we could go back to the old NHL division names: Patrick, Adams, Smythe and Norris. They wouldn’t be the same makeup of teams or regions of course, but it would be unique and a callback to one of the many storied traditions of hockey. Or Atlantic, Northeast+Florida (Or NorFlo), Midwest and West?

Very interesting, to say the least.

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Posted in: NHL, Sabres

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