Tuesday, December 6, 2011

NHL's New Conference Realignment is Baffling

By Jason Klau
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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The NHL's Board of Governors on Monday approved a radical realignment plan, eliminating the current two-conference, six-division setup in favor of a configuration that features four conferences based primarily on geography. -NHL

The above quote was issued by the NHL upon its announcement of the new NHL conference alignment system released late Monday, Dec. 6, 2011.

Basically, the NHL Board of Governors decided to do away with the two-conference, six-division system, transposing it with a four-conference system. All that's left is for the NHLPA to approve it.

The unnamed conferences are as follows:
  • 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

So the former Southeast Division has been broken up and divided up between the others in the east, yet for some reason the two Florida teams are playing in what used to be the Northeast Division. Geographically does that make sense?

If the NHL based this decision on geography, they wouldn't have needed such a drastic change at all.

I'll admit, it sounds awesome to bring back those vintage conference names, such as the Prince of Wales, or Clarence Campbell Conferences, and the Adams, Norris, Smythe and Patrick Divisions. It will bring us back to the good ol' days of NHL '94, which still may be the greatest video game ever made. But those names make it hard for the casual sports fan to follow. Those names, taken from hockey legends, mean nothing to those outside of the game.

Obviously, with the Atlanta Thrashers off to Winnipeg, some kind of change was needed. This however, could have been accomplished without changing the current system at all.

Winnipeg, in central Canada, could have easily been moved to the Central, or even Northwest Division, with the Nashville Predators coming east and replacing Winnipeg in the Southeast Division (because that definitely doesn't make sense) and possibly Minnesota coming to the Central Division depending on where Winnipeg would have been placed. Same divisions kept, nothing drastic done. Easy.

But if you've watched the NHL long enough you know that easy isn't an option.

Under the new system, the top four teams of each conference will make the playoffs.

In two of the divisions, that means four out of seven get in. If this system were applied to this season, the Islanders, Devils, and Hurricanes, all bottom feeders, already look like they will miss the playoffs. This would guarantee that the Washington Capitals, out of a playoff spot under the current system, would have a much easier time getting in.

In the fourth division listed above, six of the eight teams currently do not hold a playoff spot. Yet under the new system, two of them would get in the playoffs, while teams in other divisions with better records may not.

The biggest complaint about the NHL from casual sports fans is that the regular season does not mean enough. That it isn't nearly as exciting as the playoffs are, and by the time those roll along they don't even care.

The NHL by this move has found a way to make the regular season even less important, and even less exciting. Good job NHL!

Commisioner since 1993 Gary Bettman gives NHL Bro of the Year Tim Thomas the Stanley Cup MVP trophy

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