How will this new line-up affect the NHL odds moving forward? Also, I share my thoughts on how to improve the realignment even further.
So, what’s new in the NHL next year? Well, in a nutshell, the most startling move comes in the form of Detroit stretching their wings (see what I did there?) from their perch in the Western Conference’s Central division to their new home, in what was the rugged Eastern Conference’s Northeast division. The Columbus Blue Jackets will also pack their bags and move out of the Western Conference Central division but their destination will be a combination of the Atlantic and Southeast division in the Eastern Conference.
As of this writing, the divisions have not been named but it is widely rumored that the names will be geographic and not nostalgic like the old Adams, Patrick, Smythe and Norris of yore.
In a word: money. The NHL will cut down dramatically on travel costs and geographically stimulate rivalries. Obviously, the most severe casualty of this realignment will be the disintegration of the Chicago/Detroit divisional clashes. But it will be interesting to see the Red Wings regularly visit the Boston Garden and the Bell Centre in Montreal (and vice-versa).
Sixteen of 30 franchises will once again compete in the playoffs and yes, the Western Conference teams will have a better shot of competing in the postseason due to sheer arithmetic. There are only 14 teams in the West versus 16 in the East but, frankly Scarlett, the NHL doesn’t really give a damn.
The top three teams in each division will make the playoffs and then the remaining four spots (two in each conference) will be occupied by the next two highest regular season point getters regardless of division in each conference. Confused? Don’t be; just look at the other three leagues and see how they do it. It’s kind of like that, only not exactly. Glad I could clarify that for you.
The Way It Should Be
Personally, I like the idea of realignment and I think the NHL has done an almost perfect job of setting this up with the geographics of the franchises front and center in their decision making. But I would do things a bit differently and here’s how.
Division A (West Coast) – Leave it alone, it’s all good.
Division B (Central) – Oh, for the luvvagawd, leave Chicago and Detroit alone and let them continue to hate each other. In my world, Division B would look like this:
Division C – Let’s keep the Northeast teams together and introduce Detroit and Chicago into the mix. Now I know this looks like an embarrassment of riches for this division but just remember, good teams don’t stay good forever and ditto for bad teams. And guess what, now you have the Original Six in the same division! So here we go:
Division D – We have not touched the essence of Division D as it is currently constructed. The essence, of course, is the triangulated rivalry between Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington. Here’s what it looks like:
Since we’re in the mood for change here, there are a few other things that I would do but will never happen due to the never-ending pursuit of money. Personally, I think you could put the Phoenix Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators all out to pasture and contract the league to make it even more competitive and elevate the level of competition. If you’re a fan of one of those teams, you have not only my apologies but my sympathies as well.
Do you have your own picks for the new league divisions? Think you can do better? Join the discussion!
Lastly, widen each and every rink in the NHL. The shooters have gotten bigger and faster while the goalies now resemble the Michelin Man. Half the goals are pin-balled off body parts or skate blades. A wider arena would allow the finesse guys to move more freely and actually pinpoint their shots because there would be less traffic in front.
That’s it for me boys and girls. If you want Swinger to replace Bettman, get a petition started and make history!
Here's a handy infographic, detailing how they've set up the league for next year: