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Major NHL realignment plan “gaining steam”

Oct 30, 2011, 4:17 PM EDT

The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman led off last night’s Hotstove segment on Hockey Night in Canada with news that a plan to drastically realign the NHL’s current divisional system was “gaining steam” and that some teams were saying the chances of it happening were “50-50”.

Here’s the proposed plan:


According to Friedman, each team would play a home-and-home series with the teams outside their division, with the remaining games played within the division. The first two rounds of the playoffs would also be contested within the division, the same as they were back in the days of the 21-team NHL.

The plan has both its supporters and detractors. The Blue Jackets and Red Wings would obviously be happy to play more away games that their fans could watch on TV without staying up past midnight, but Friedman says the Penguins are worried they’ll lose their in-state rivalry with the Flyers with just two games between the sides in the regular season.

For what it’s worth, I like the plan. The more playoff series between division rivals the better. Because while geography plays its part, it’s really the postseason that creates the hatred. Chicago and Vancouver aren’t close to each other, but the Blackhawks and Canucks have one of the fiercest rivalries in the NHL at the moment. Three best-of-seven series in three years will do that.

Admittedly, the current system is probably more fair. If four teams from each division are guaranteed to make the playoffs, there are going to be weak teams that qualify for the postseason while stronger teams don’t. The old Norris Division was a joke for much of the 80s, yet it still qualified four teams each year. What’s more, one of those four teams was guaranteed to make the conference finals, when most of the time it was really the Battle of Alberta in the Smythe Division finals that decided who went to the Cup finals.

There’s also the matter of two divisions having eight teams and two having seven. The old Patrick Division had six teams while the other three had five; however, since the Penguins and Devils were both terrible for much of the 80s, the issue of unfairness didn’t come up as much as it could have. But take the 1987-88 season when the Rangers (82 points) and Penguins (81 points) each missed the playoffs while the Hartford Whalers (77 points) nabbed the fourth and final spot in the Adams Division. Think the Rangers and Penguins were happy with that?

Of course, having a bad team make the playoffs isn’t always such a bad thing. In 1981-82, the Los Angeles Kings qualified with 63 points (not enough to make the playoffs in any other division) and knocked off the Edmonton Oilers (111 points) in the first round. Did the Kings deserve the chance to pull off arguably the greatest upset in NHL history? Answer: Who cares? That was an amazing series that nobody will ever forget, particularly Game 3, aka the Miracle on Manchester.

Now, should the proposed plan be implemented, it will be impossible for a team as bad as the 1981-82 Kings to make the playoffs, but it still opens up the possibility for unlikely story lines.

  1. florida76 - Oct 30, 2011 at 4:29 PM

    Having a mediocre team in the same division play a dominant team can produce unexpected results. In the 1982 playoffs, the dynastic Islanders barely survived a Penguins team they had handled easily in the regular season and won the first two games of the series by a 15-3 score. The series had an easy sweep written all over it, but the Islanders were pushed to a deciding fifth game and had to rally from two goals down in the third period of that game just to escape the first round of the playoffs.

    • comeonnowguys - Oct 30, 2011 at 5:06 PM

      91 North Stars over the Blackhawks another example.

      • quizguy66 - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:53 PM

        actually that 91 North Stars series was a classic example of one team getting way more penalties than the other. I was a neutral living in Illinois at the time and watched that whole series. It was comical how many power plays the North Stars got in that series. I thought Keenan was gonna have a stroke.


      • quizguy66 - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:54 PM

        ugh, meant that reply about the 91 stars series to be in the thread about the Bruins – somehow the threads got crossed up 😦

  2. bluesrawesome - Oct 30, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    I like this

  3. comeonnowguys - Oct 30, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    There’s no reason to break up PHI/PIT over this. Move the NY teams from Div #1 to Div #2, and move Pit to Div #1

    Also, if it’s Columbus, you can move them to Div #1 and move the Devils to Div #2 with the NY teams.

    It really should be Columbus. With more emphasis on divisional play, there will be a significant reduction of games with 10 p.m. start times.

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Oct 30, 2011 at 6:12 PM

      I agree. You can’t break up the Keystone State rivalry. It’s one of those must-see-tv match ups.

    • quizguy66 - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:47 PM

      Split the Devils and Flyers up from the Rangers and Islanders? That is ridculous, dude. Maybe ya trade the Pens for the 2 Florida teams 😉 but break-up the 3 tri-state teams and the Flyers? Dumb.


      • comeonnowguys - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:38 AM

        It’s not perfect by any means. As mentioned, if it’s Columbus, you can at least bring the Devils over with the NY teams.

        It’s tricky to build a conference around not breaking up the Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Flyers and Penguins, when you have to figure Boston, Montreal and Toronto into the mix.

        Whatever they choose, they need to have backup plans for when Phoenix or any other team on the verge of jumping actually jumps.

        This hurts my head.

  4. donttouchthedirtypenny - Oct 30, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    I like this for the most part but playoffs has to be top 8, intradivision.

  5. hockeyfan9170 - Oct 30, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    This is goofy. First put Columbus and Detroit in the east.


    Buffalo Sabres
    Toronto Maple Leafs
    Detroit Red Wings
    Columbus Blue Jackets
    Pittsburgh Penguins
    Philadelphia Flyers
    Carolina Hurricanes
    Florida Panthers


    Ottawa Senators
    Montreal Canadiens
    Boston Bruins
    New York Rangers
    New York Islanders
    New Jersey Devils
    Washington Capitals
    Tampa Bay Lightning

    • chobes68 - Oct 30, 2011 at 8:15 PM

      If I was commish, I’d get rid of/move Phoenix, Dallas, Fla, and TB. They don’t support hockey well enough at the gate. Quebec, Hamilton, whomever else. Seattle has a reputation of supporting their teams, but not sure about KC and hockey.


      NY Rangers
      NY Islanders
      Buffalo Sabres
      NJ Devils




      St Louis
      Colorado (only because no one else is a fit, unless they keep either Det or Col in Norris/Central)


      San Jose

    • bdrapeau - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:26 AM

      sorry, but the Adams Division is Boston and Montreal. They are the heart of that division, can’t be changed. After fixing that, the rest looks great.

  6. hockeyfan9170 - Oct 30, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    I split the Florida teams into two divisions. Southern teams benefit more selling tickets having northern teams visit.

  7. wethog66 - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:25 PM

    TB BUF

    This makes way more sense. All the NY teams are in the same divison, PITT/PHI are in the same division, WASH/PITT are in the same division, and a rivalry between two teams close to each other geography wise in PITT/CBJ could take shape. And I have to think having a rivlary with PITT would go a long way in helping the CBJ franchise become more finacially viable.

    And DET has no buisness in the easter conference no matter what anyone says. DET is the west conference, and being in a division where WPG is the farthest western team has to help them with their *****ing about timezones and playing late away games.

    • hockeyfan9170 - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:49 PM

      Detroit fans would disagree when their games end around 1am.

      • comeonnowguys - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:32 AM

        I hate late games as much as the next guy. This will significantly reduce them for RW fans.

  8. atwatercrushesokoye - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    First get rid of 6 teams, then split the league into 4 divisions with 6 teams each, using the “original 21” as a blueprint for what ideal divisions would look like.

    • hockeyfan9170 - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:53 PM

      Or add Seattle and KC for 32 teams.

      • comeonnowguys - Oct 31, 2011 at 10:39 AM

        Expansion simply can’t happen with teams like PHX and NYI having stadium/attendance issues as it is.

      • blkeskimo1785 - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:46 PM

        Suppose they could consider an expansion in 3-4 years, when they figure out the situations with the Islanders and the Coyotes?

  9. quizguy66 - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    One thing I don’t understand about this plan is why you need to have only one of Detroit and Columbus move to the East.

    No matter which conference you are in, your odds of making the playoffs are 4/8 if you are in an 8-team division and 4/7 if you’re in a 7-team division. The eastern teams get better travel and the western teams with their longer flights get thrown the bone of slightly more frequent playoff appearances. I’d probably swing Phoenix into the central to make it 7, especially given the odds that it may move sooner than later.


    • hockeyfan9170 - Oct 30, 2011 at 9:55 PM

      My point exactly.

  10. buclight - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:10 AM


    Not sure where you got your numbers from saying TB doesn’t support hockey at the gate currently we are 8th in the league in attendance. Well above other northern teams

    • rca26 - Nov 2, 2011 at 10:49 AM

      Traditionalists don’t respond well to facts.

  11. balewsquare - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:26 AM

    Can’t we just keep is the way it is now, swap WPG and CBJ and call it a day?

    • comeonnowguys - Oct 31, 2011 at 1:39 PM

      Honestly, I wouldn’t mind that at all for the next couple years and go to four divisions once the team-relocation dust has settled.

  12. selldannysell - Oct 31, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    Here’s how it should go:

    Wales Conference

    Boston Bruins
    Buffalo Sabres
    Columbus Blue Jackets
    Montreal Canadiens
    New York Islanders
    New York Rangers
    Ottawa Senators
    Toronto Maple Leafs

    Carolina Hurricanes
    Florida Panthers
    New Jersey Devils
    Tampa Bay Lightning
    Philadelphia Flyers
    Pittsburgh Penguins
    Washington Capitals

    Campbell Conference

    Chicago Blackhawks
    Dallas Stars
    Detroit Red Wings
    Minnesota Wild
    Nashville Predators
    St. Louis Blues
    Winnipeg Jets

    Anaheim Ducks
    Calgary Flames
    Colorado Avalanche
    Edmonton Oilers
    Los Angeles Kings
    Phoenix Coyotes
    San Jose Sharks
    Vancouver Canucks

  13. 8man - Oct 31, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    I think Detroit stays in the west. Having five Original Six teams in the Eastern Conference seems imbalanced to me. Then again, I’d love to see the Bruins and Wings tangle five or six times a year. Well, whatever works.

  14. greynraney - Nov 1, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    West Pacific – ANA LA SJ PHX COL
    West Central – DET DAL CHI NAS STL
    West North – VAN WIN CAL EDM MIN

    East Atlantic – WAS FL TB CAR ISL
    East Northeast – TOR OTT BUF MON BOS
    East Central – PIT PHI NYR NJD CBJ

    Take Colombus and move them to the east leaving Detroit in the West
    Take the Islanders and move them to the SE allowing Pittsburg and Philly to stay in the same division.

  15. tark44 - Nov 5, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    I don’t think that you’ll ever please everybody. I think the best solution is to make it geographically sensible, at least as close as you can. Trying to keep teams in divisions that make sense, as far as closeness in proximity, lessens the travel burden. I don’t know if anybody would pay attention to someone writing their first comment ever. However, I love hockey and want it to be the example of how all sports leagues should think of aligning their leagues. Regionalizing the divisions makes for better rivalries. The closeness of teams to each other, lends itself to being a much more intense rivalry. Anyway, here is my NHL Realignment;
    Eastern Conference/ Wales Conference
    Western Conference/ Campbell Conference
    I just think that over time, making the ability to travel to division rivals easier would benefit the teams and the league. This alignment tries to keep most present day rivals together. Again, we can’t please everybody, but for the most part I think that this makes the most sense. Thanks for reading, I’ll try to respond to any/all comments soon. Gotta Go,Later

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