Credit to the NHL for not fearing mixing things up when it comes to divisions and conferences. The league has had appreciable more franchise movement than all other major sports leagues combined. Teams leaving Winnipeg and coming back, a trial and failure in Atlanta, cities like Tampa and Charlotte thriving, and no team in the United States’ fourth largest city (that would be Houston). Mix in two major strikes and a lost season the last 10 years and it makes sense. This league is still scuffling, no reason not to experiment with the recipe.
NHL realignment was approved by the NHL Board of Governors yesterday, and it’s probably a step in the right direction. Aligning more by time zone and geography, even more than before. Details of what is called a division versus conference are still sketchy. But it appears the teams who will be linked are becoming solidified.
Credit Elliotte Friedman / CBC Sports via SB Nation
The most (gulp) against tradition move is the Detroit Red Wings leaving the Western Conference for the East. No longer will we watch those long time division matchups with the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, usually for Division props and almost always in the playoffs. But welcome Wings new division squabs with Montreal, Boston and Toronto (there are some passionate hockey fans there to match Hockeytown’s enthusiasm). Within this division are also the Florida teams, kind of an odd shoehorn but there are always odd fits when it comes to Florida and hockey.
And the most media-heavy division in the East will include both New York teams, Philly, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Washington. All within an hour or three train ride. I know Philly doesn’t like New York, nor does Jersey, Washington has its attitude, and Pittsburgh and Philly aren’t exactly brotherly love types.
The West is still spread geographically, with natural LA rivalries, then Vancouver, Colorado, San Jose, and the Alberta Canadian teams in one division. Dallas gets a lot more teams from the Central time zone which should benefit their TV posture, like Chicago, St. Louis, surging Nashville, and Winnipeg teams. The West will be rough to tame.
One thing that’s been proved with three division conferences is that some team (think NFL or NHL) gets a much better seed than the runner up in a power division. Okay if you seed by conference (like the NBA), but no so much when a 9-7 team gets a home game and a 12-4 team goes wild-carding because they are runner up to the Steelers.
Overall, this is a good reshuffle of the deck, to make an omelet, some eggs must be broken (sorry Detroit-Chicago). But the league is not in a position of extraordinary strength when it comes to TV ratings or general American interest.
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