Whitby - December 6, 2011 - On Monday, the NHL Board of Governors approved a four-conference re-alignment plan. The plan will be implemented for the 2012-13 NHL regular season. The radical re-alignment will consist of four (yet unnamed) conferences, two seven-team and two eight-team divisions.
The re-alignment became a necessity as the Winnipeg Jets organization had to be moved out of the Eastern Conference. In order for NHL re-alignment to take place, two-thirds of NHL owners needed to be in favour of the idea and such was the case on Monday.
The soon-to-be new alignment is quite similar to the alignment last followed in the 1992-93 NHL season. Under this format, every team will play every other team outside of its own conference once at home and once on the road.
The playoffs will also be familiar to long-time fans of the game. The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs. The first two rounds are divisional matchups similar to the setup back in the 1980s: The first place team in Division “X” will face the fourth place team from the same conference. Likewise, the second place team from Division “X” would faceoff against the third place team.
Re-Alignment Good for Fans
The pending re-alignment is nothing but great news for hockey fans across the world. The NHL will be more competitive and fans in every NHL city will get to see each team at least once per season.
All traditional rivalries will continue to exist and fans will likely see multiply formed rivalries in each conference as each NHL team will faceoff six-to-seven times against teams in their own conference.
Re-Alignment Good for NHL teams
The big winners in the re-alignment most definitely are the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets. These teams get to stay in their own time zone and travel is significantly reduced.
NHL Expansion in 2013-14?
After one reviews the new alignment for next season, the first question that comes to mind is the fact that the four unnamed divisions are not balanced. Two divisions are filled with seven teams each while the other two divisions will house eight teams in each one.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has to have two aces up his sleeve. Don’t be surprised to see the NHL expand to 32 teams in less than two years in order to balance the divisions equally.
Another question then comes to the forefront of one’s mind.
How can the NHL even begin to think about expansion when various NHL organizations are having difficulty filling arena seats with spectators now (for example, Columbus, Phoenix, Dallas, Long Island)?
What say you?
What should the names of the four division be known as? My vote -Adams, Norris, Smythe and Patrick - kickin’ it old school and keeping it real!
Until next time, play every game as if it is your last one...