I'm bringing back the blog! I took a hiatus and focused my energy on the search for a full-time job. Now that I've found a full-time position, it's time to start posting again.

Some days I wish I could read the minds of Gary Bettman and other NHL executives. And since the NHL announced it’s new conference realignment on March 14, I’ve wondered that a lot.

It makes absolutely zero sense to me to have a division format when there are not equal teams in each division and playoff positions depend on division rankings.

There is one good thing about this realignment: every team will visit each NHL city once a year. In my opinion, this should’ve happened sooner in a league that has an 82-game schedule and 30 teams.

Instead of bashing the current route the NHL has decided to take, I have created my own (very simple) realignment proposal:
  • Get rid of the divisions. Have two 15 team conferences.
    • East: Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Columbus, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Washington
    • West: Anaheim, Calgary, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Detroit (sorry Red Wings), Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Nashville, Phoenix, San Jose, St. Louis, Vancouver, Winnipeg
  • Instead of the current 82-game season, I’m proposing an 86-game season. Made up of the following:
    • A home and home with each team in the league. This would make up 58 of the 86 games.
    • An additional home and home with every team in your conference. This would make up the remaining 28 games.
  • Playoffs:
    • Top 8 teams in each conference make the playoffs.
    • 1st Round
      • Top 4 seeds in each conference get home ice advantage
      • It would be just like the current format where it’s 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5
      • Best of 5 series
    • 2nd Round
      • Lowest seed faces highest seed and the remaining two teams in that conference face each other with the better (lower number) seed in each series getting home ice advantage
      • Best of 7 series
    • Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals
      • Better seed (lower number seed) gets home ice advantage
      • Best of 7 series
Why am I keeping Detroit in the West?

To me it doesn’t make sense to have 16 teams in one conference and 14 in another. So either Detroit or Columbus had to stay. On a map, Detroit appears to be just slightly further West. In addition, I wanted to keep Detroit and Chicago in the same conference to preserve that Original-Six rivalry.

Why am I getting rid of divisions?

Nothing annoys me more than to see a team get rewarded with a higher seed in the conference because they play in a weak division. Consider this my Washington Capitals rule. Look at the standings as of today:
If the season ended today, the Capitals, in spite of having a lower amount of points than the Canadiens and Maple Leafs and Islanders, would secure the 3rd seed because they would win their division. If there were no divisions, the Capitals would be fighting for a playoff spot with the Rangers and Senators.

It has bothered me for years that the top 3 seeds are reserved for division winners. In theory this places more emphasis on winning the division to secure home ice advantage for the 1st round of the playoffs. My biggest issue with this is that, potentially, in the 2nd round a 3 seed could play against a 4 or 5 seed that has more points than them (aka outplayed them during the regular season) but the 3 seed would instead have home ice for that series.

I’m sure a big criticism of this part of my plan will be that you will lose division rivalries. These rivalries will continue to exist because the teams will still play each other. And because they will play each other fewer times, it will make these games more unique and more of a show. If the Penguins and Flyers will only have 4 games against each other in a 86-game season, imagine how crazy those games will be. The atmosphere will be even more intense because they don’t play each other as much. It will magnify the significance of playing against your rival.

Why a best of 5 series in the first round?

This is partially to compensate for the additional 4 games added to the season. As much as I love the NHL playoffs, they’re too long. Opening them up with a 5 game series will help shorten it a little bit without totally disrupting the tradition of the NHL playoffs. Since the lockout, only 16 of 56 1st round series have gone a full seven games

And if you think I’m totally crazy and want a professional’s opinion about what may not  work out with NHL realignment check out this article from Greg Wyshynski.

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