Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Re-Aligning the stars

Somewhere between a six-hour round of golf and the all-you-can eat buffet the NHL board of governors found the time to overhaul the landscape of the NHL. I don't hate what they came up with but I'm amazed that they would invite the type of scrutiny they've faced by the lackadaisicality involved.  Meetings didn't start until 3:30 in the afternoon.  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said on nhl.com that the realignment discussion lasted only about an hour. These guys gotta work on their PR.

Realignment became necessary when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg.  The'll play this season in the Southeast but needed a new division before the start of next season.  To accomodate a move to the west it made sense to simply shift one of the more eastern teams in the Western Conference, most likely Detroit, but instead of the simple route the NHL shook things up.

I have never liked the regional conference break down.  Why group teams based on location?  It makes sense to costs and scheduling to try not to spread everything around, but MLB baseball is really the blue print the league should have followed, and really didn't. 

In the MLB Oakland and San Francisco, though just minutes appart, play in different leagues. Same for the New York and Florida teams.  They may not face each other in the regular season as often and that might harm a regional rivalry, but it sets the stage for an inner-state championship - isn't that a lot more appealing?

As a Canadian fan the new model has changed next to nothing.  Under the current format all six Canadian teams are split evenly in two divisions, which means only one even has a chance of taking top spot in their conference.  The teams that don't win have only a 1 in 5 chance of home ice advantage at any point in the playoffs.  The new Jets atleast weren't grouped in the same conference as the other six Canadian teams but they're a long way from competing for home-ice advantage. There's no reason why Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton had to remain all in the same conference under the new format. Same for Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

This, to me, was a failure, but as I examine it further it appears the obvious thing will be that eventually Phoenix will leave Conference A and become the re-born Quebec team in conference D, which will then leave atleast one Canadian team in each conference.  It would be nice with four conferences and soon-to-be eight Canadian teams to have two in each but that's a pipe dream I guess.

I hold out hope that Phoenix will relocate and we will have Canadian representation in each new conference, but even then it's not ideal.  Under the new system four teams from each conference make the playoffs, that means only one Canadian team can come out of each, where as in the current system All three in the West and East respectively could make the playoffs and potentially play in the Conference final.  Now only one can come out of each division.

I like that we've overcome the regional, I just wish the NHL atleast acted like they put more thought in to the process.  Nothing they come up with would be perfect, it would just be nice for optix.

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