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Five things to wonder about realignment

Dec 5, 2011, 9:55 AM EDT


Realignment talk is going to dominate NHL discussion today and tomorrow and with the latest proposal being leaked out and discussed, there’s a few things to keep in mind while the Board of Governors meet in Pebble Beach to figure out which direction the league heads in.

1. Rivalries

The playoffs always help make a rivalry real. The NHL adopted an unbalanced schedule to force rivalries to happen and while that’s been nice, it hasn’t paid off. Going back to a balanced schedule and a playoff format with the top four teams in each conference facing each other first in the first two rounds is the right way to make it happen. Old hate becomes new hate and new hate is good for business.

2. The Phoenix Situation

This could be the final year we see the Coyotes play in Glendale. Deciding on realignment without knowing where the Coyotes could land next is tricky. Elliotte Friedman reports that their next location could be any of Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City, or Las Vegas. If they move to Seattle or Vegas, fine. Kansas City or Quebec could create headaches. The NHL better have a backup plan for where the Coyotes can switch to just in case.

3. Detroit and Columbus and Nashville and Dallas

These four teams all want their travel problems alleviated. Detroit and Columbus want to be with more easterly teams, Nashville wants something similar, while Dallas wants to be lumped in with the Central Division teams for travel purposes. If they’re going to do radical realignment, getting all of these teams what they want is difficult but there’s got to be compromise. Will the balanced schedule be enough?

4. Plan C is for “cop out”

If none of the radical proposals work out, the one move that will end up playing out is seeing Winnipeg swapped out with either Detroit or Columbus. If this is the one move that’s made, that’s a big failure for the Board of Governors. If selfish needs and petty desires get in the way of fixing things up, they should feel ashamed. They’ll also have to hear a lot from Columbus/Detroit and Dallas management at the very least. Who wants to listen to a cranky Mike Ilitch anyway?

5. Embrace being different

Fans seem to want things to be somewhat the same but just a little bit different. The NHL isn’t like the other major sports and should embrace being different. Hockey’s uniqueness makes it special. A four conference format? Have at it. Divisional/Conference playoffs to decide who goes to the NHL final four? Go for it, it worked in the 80s. Doing things old school is all the rage as it is, having the league embrace it would be beautiful.

  1. tmoore4075 - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    AGree with everything there Joe.

    Rivalries? You are spot on. The NHL tried to force this 8 games in the division. I was so sick seeing Nashville and Columbus so much.

    The NHL needs to plan better with PHX than they did with ATL. My guess is the reason the “West” has two 8 division teams is if you have to move PHX out East. It leaves that door open. I hope the NHL is working on a possible schedule for the Coyotes being in Quebec or any of the other possible cities.

    The proposed scheduling matrix solves everyone’s problems in the West. All the teams keep Detroit. Lose at most 1 home game. Dallas gets the Central, Detroit, CBJ and NASH only travel to the far the Pacific coast and Western Canada once each and come playoff time it really helps everyone out West to not be jumping time zones.

    The Eastern teams have trouble with this? It’ll still be easier than what most Western teams have had to deal with for year. Man up.

    • govtminion - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      Sounds right to me, especially the last part. It’s nice that the Flyers (to pick on someone) get such short trips to play the Penguins, Capitals, Devils, Rangers, etc.- but Colorado (again as an example) doesn’t have that luxury. That’s just how the nation is built- it doesn’t mean the league has to make life tougher on Western teams simply because of the larger distance between large NHL-supporting cities.

  2. sknut - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    Couldn’t agree more and from a TV standpoint, look at the Wild they are the only central time zone team in their division and that’s a lot of later games that fans don’t always want to stay up for.

    Either way someone isn’t going to be happy but I like this format and the thought of the first two rounds of the playoffs within the conference is exciting.

    • davebabychreturns - Dec 5, 2011 at 12:48 PM

      In fairness, staying up for Wild games is a tall order no matter what time.

      • sknut - Dec 5, 2011 at 1:38 PM


      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 5, 2011 at 2:32 PM

        I guess it is hard to stay awake for the team with the BEST record in the NHL, but what do I know?

  3. abrienza428 - Dec 5, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    LOL at Florida and Tampa Bay being with the current Northeast Division.
    I like the division/playoff format that exists now. It seems like they could make a few tweaks and fix it, but obviously some teams will be unhappy.

    On another note, the Coyotes in Vegas?

  4. pastabelly - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    Why are Tampa Bay and Florida in orange on the above chart? Is that to show how stupid it is they are being sent to a division whose geography makes the least amount of sense? I haven’t seen one plan out there yet that is not the result of greed of stupidity.

    What makes the most sense is just moving Nashville to the Southeast, Minnesota to the Central, and Winnipeg to the Northwest.

    Detroit’s complaints are all about greed and avoiding late starts because tv commercials are worth a lot less in games starting later. There is no good reason why they believe they have more rights to move East than Columbus or Nashville.

    • cmutimmah - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:30 AM

      Commercials are worth less BECAUSE the fans can’t watch them (10:30 games during the work week…)

      Maybe they should take into consideration that the allure of the league is hindered by the hometown fans being neglected. Kids can’t stay up and watch these late games, so they can’t watch the games and become fans of their team’s stars. Football has it right, no games outside the realm of ‘normal’ sleep schedules (for the most part).

      So yes, I selfishly want the Wings in the East. There would be more competition. We’d get to play the Leafs again (hopefully the ditch this lopsided scheduling crap anyway). And I’d get some sleep during playoff rounds that don’t include Vancouver, LA, PHO, SJ, etc…

      • ThatGuy - Dec 5, 2011 at 12:06 PM

        But your complaint is no less valid than Columbus’s complaint. They also have the argument of being a struggling franchice that being able to have the vast majority of their games on at primetime can help them build a fanbase because their games road games will not be on late. Detroit has a fanbase and plenty of rivalries.

        Sure it would be nice to play Toronto again, but your just swapping rivalries in losing Chicago.

      • ThatGuy - Dec 5, 2011 at 12:08 PM

        Also your hurting the competitive balance of the league by swapping a perenial powerhouse with perenial doormate if you just swap Detroit and Winnipeg. Winnipeg and Colombus would fix that.

  5. comeonnowguys - Dec 5, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    But isn’t Nashville on Central time?

    Regardless, any radical realignment before the Phoenix situation is settled is a waste of effort.

    • tmoore4075 - Dec 5, 2011 at 1:55 PM

      No it’s not. I think a minor fix (swapping Detroit or CBJ for the Jets) is a waste of time. If Phoenix moves East then either Detroit or Columbus will be right back in the West. The 4 division format leaves the possibility of the Coyotes going to Quebec City or any other possible team in the East.

      To the argument of Columbus deals with it too. When they start making the playoffs and having to travel a lot then we can talk. Detroit gets smacked with it during the regular season like the Jackets but the last two playoffs have been brutal.

      I agree the competitive balance swings with Detroit going. That’s why the the 4 division format is actually best for the whole league. If you are going to market the crap out of Crosby and Ovie wouldn’t you want them to go out West EVERY season?

      Also to the person who asked why is TBL and FLA in yellow it’s because on the broadcast the other night it was to point out that they were the big change from the last time CBC discussed this.

  6. 8man - Dec 5, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Looks a little goofy to me that you have all those teams in the northeast, like Boston and Buffalo and they geographically hop all of the teams in the Mid-Atlantic to play Tampa Bay and Florida.

    Shouldn’t Carolina, Tampa Bay, Washington and Florida all be in the same division? Honestly, Washington is 500 miles closer to Florida.

  7. thomaspratt - Dec 5, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    I am of the opinion that Bettman would not bring this to a vote unless he knew he had the votes. I expect the 15 Western teams to vote as a bloc, add Winnipeg for 16. Maybe Philly and Pittsburgh have been united in the same division in return for their votes (recall they were in separate divisions in the earlier version of this proposal), so that might be 18. The Florida teams have to be in favor of seeing teams that appeal to snowbirds more often, so that might be your 20.

    • tmoore4075 - Dec 5, 2011 at 1:57 PM

      Yup I am with you on this. They have 18 votes for sure imo. I mean if you are one of the 16 teams out west how can you not be for a more balanced schedule and a better playoff format for you? The Florida teams get the snowbirds PLUS Detroit every year in their building. Anyone see the Wings fans last season in Tampa? Had to be close to half the building. I think that’s more likely than getting 20 votes in favor of letting Detroit go East.

  8. greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 5, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    this realignment leaves the door open for expansion, which is why I think Detroit is in the west and Florida and Tampa are placed where they are.

    NHL expands to Seattle giving them a natural rivalry with Vancouver. If you remember over the summer, there was post they are a definite possibility. That would replace Phoenix who moves to Quebec.

    Kansas City get their team as well, giving Detroit their wish of going to the eastern conference.

    Detroit and Quebec both join the northeast and kick Florida and Tampa Bay to the other eastern conference/division with their closest rivalries with Washington and Carolina.

    This would give all conferences 8 teams and makes a balanced schedule for everybody. If you don’t think the current 30 owners won’t pass up the millions that come with an expansion fee, times two, your naive.

    • tmoore4075 - Dec 5, 2011 at 4:16 PM

      While they wouldn’t pass up the expansion fees they want to fix the teams they have now. The big clubs don’t want to be keeping teams like PHX and Columbus afloat and then other teams that might struggle if they expand to a non-traditional market.

      • comeonnowguys - Dec 5, 2011 at 4:44 PM

        Is Kansas City even successfully supporting a minor league team?

        They can’t have a handful of franchises on shaky ground and bring in more in new markets on top of it.

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 5, 2011 at 8:22 PM

        The key word about Kansas City is minor league. Minnesota had the Moose after the Stars left and we didn’t support that either. Wild aren’t exactly hurting at the gate the past 11 seasons.

  9. BB_Baker - Dec 5, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    I hope PHX doesn’t come to Vegas they would have to find a new home in a few years because of lack of ticket sales. We can’t support the minor league team we have here. An NHL team wouldn’t do good in this city. I’ve been a hockey fan since I was five and Las Vegas isn’t a hockey town.

    Seattle would be a better place for the team to go. I’d hate to see any team get uprooted and moved after only a few years. I would go to the games, but I would be in the minority. Look at the history of Las Vegas and it’s hockey teams and you’ll understand.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Dec 5, 2011 at 8:24 PM

      Vegas will never have a major league franchise as long as Vegas has gambling.

  10. comeonnowguys - Dec 5, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    I get they don’t want to break up NYR/NYI/NJD/PHI, and by extension, PIT, but what are they doing geographically with this?

    Are they going to call the division on the left “The Cookie” and the other “The Creamy Center?”

    Split it up 8/7, 8/7. It’s never going to be even with 30 teams. You’re either going to have one conference where it’s harder to make the playoffs, or a division in each conference where it’s harder to make the playoffs. At least the 8/7/8/7 gives you some flexibility (see: Columbus moving east, then possibly back) if they do wind up realigning before Phoenix moves, should they move east.

  11. thomaspratt - Dec 5, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    Seattle needs a building before they consider anything like an NHL team. There were rumors last summer that they owner of the AHL Chicago Wolves was looking into building something in the Seattle area, but not a peep since then.

    I have serious reservations about Seattle as an NHL town.

    I can’t see Seattle getting the NHL before getting the NBA back, and I really am not certain it’s a four sport town. I know there was some talk of the Western NHL teams trying to reorient the AHL:to include more Pacific teams. I see Seattle much more as a home for Vancouver’s farm team than a big league market on it’s own. Good quality hockey that needs to draw 5,000 or so to break even.

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