NHL Realignment Possibilities

In NHL, Realignment on October 20, 2011 at 11:05 PM

On “Mac App,” the site’s namesake and I had an extended discussion that touched upon teams having to travel in sports, and however you might feel about college football, it is an issue in professional sports. Players want to have less travel time, unions do worry about these things, and I think the fans like more local rivalries too.

Anyway, his mention of the NHL (and his team, the Vancouver Canucks) inspired to talk about Hockey realignment, which is necessary because Winnipeg is not exactly in the Southeast. (If you didn’t know, yet another franchise has moved from Atlanta to Canada, so that’s why they’re in the Southeast Division). I’m not an NHL expert, but I do appreciate the game, particularly the playoffs. I think I know enough about rivalries and so forth to give it a try, but I’m sure there are people out there who know more, so if you’re one of those people, feel free to share anything I might be overlooking. I’m also doing a similar series of blogs about college football conferences (I and II so far), and I’ll be looking for input as I get into less-familiar regions of the country.

Anyway, it just makes sense to have match-ups people are going to care about. People in Minnesota, for instance, are going to want to beat Detroit and Chicago regardless of the sport. People in New York are going to want to beat Boston regardless of the sport. And so on.

But like in basketball, Minnesota is probably going to be tacked onto the Northwest rather than a more Midwestern grouping. The existing alignment actually does not have the New York-area teams playing Boston.

Supposedly, the Eastern Conference is against “radical realignment,” but would leaving two divisions alone (except for Winnipeg moving out) and splitting the third really be so radical? I don’t think so. And I just mentioned one thing (Boston-New York) that should be attractive about making a change. Also, I think Buffalo fans would like to see them play the New York-area teams more often.

So I’ll start with the four-division idea. I thought it might be fairer to do what baseball did and create even numbers in each conference (of course baseball has leagues instead of conferences). The 15-team-conference alternative would simply move Columbus from the Eastern Conference Southern Division to the Western Conference Northern Division.

This is one place I wanted input. I was wondering if people would have more of a problem with it being harder to make the playoffs in one conference (which would be the result of 16/14) or more of a problem with uneven divisions in the same conference (which would be the result of 15/15).

I thought this first one was the best based on distance and fan interest, but there is a problem. See if you notice…

Proposal 1, 4 divisions:

Eastern Conference
Northeast—Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, New York, New York, New Jersey
Southeast—Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Carolina, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus

Western Conference
Northwest—Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago
Southwest—St. Louis, Dallas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Colorado, San Jose, Phoenix

My thinking is that it would be better for the non-Ontario/Quebec Canada teams to be all together. My guess is that Vancouver would not want to be with West Coast teams that are so far away as San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. The other Canadian teams aren’t that close, but I certainly think there would be fan interest there.

The main problem with that is the Northwest would include teams in four time zones. The alternative below would keep each division down to two time zones (at most). This only works well under the 15/15 model. But if you really thought 16/14 was a good idea, the Western Conference could take Nashville, and New Jersey could move down to the Southeast.

Proposal 2, 4 divisions:

Western Conference
Far West: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Colorado
Midwest: Winnipeg, Minnesota, Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Columbus

Eastern Conference
Northeast—Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, New York, New York, New Jersey
Southeast—Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Carolina, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

Proposal 3, 6 divisions:

Western Conference
Northwest—Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Minnesota, Winnipeg
Midwest—St. Louis, Dallas, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit
Southwest—San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Colorado

Eastern Conference
Southeast—Washington, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville
Atlantic—Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, New York, New Jersey
Northeast—Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto

I recognize there are a few misfits in Proposal 3: Dallas, Colorado, and Washington. Washington supposedly would rather play the Atlantic teams, but I don’t see a way of moving anyone out of the Atlantic list, except maybe for Pittsburgh (which would unfortunately split them up with Philadelphia). So they would go to the Midwest, and I guess you kick Dallas out of the Midwest, but if you put Dallas back with the Mountain and Pacific Time zone, you’re keeping that problem unnecessarily. Then Colorado isn’t really going to fit anywhere. It’s nowhere near Minneapolis, nowhere near Dallas, nowhere near St. Louis, nowhere near San Jose, nowhere near Calgary and nowhere near Phoenix. If you connect all those other dots, it’s somewhere in the middle. But I think Phoenix is one of the closer options of those, and at least during standard time, it’s in the same time zone.

But I think the way I have it above would make Dallas a little happier by taking away the Pacific Coast teams and giving them two Eastern time zone teams to go with two other central time zone teams. Detroit would at least join one other Eastern time zone team, and I don’t think it works with the Canada teams very well unless there is going to be a team in Windsor.

I’m definitely not an expansion advocate at this point (I don’t think it’s good business, I don’t really care as much about talent dilution), so this is mostly just for fun rather than a serious suggestion, but it occurred to me that it could work really well with the 8-division model like the NFL has. I think Eastern Canada is a notorious expansion/relocation target. Harder to say where a second team would be, my guess would be the Midwest (maybe Milwaukee). But if it’s somewhere to the West and South of Minnesota instead, Minnesota could be moved to the Midwest and the new team could be in the Mid-America division.

Eastern Conference
Old Canada—Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Eastern Canada expansion team
Northeast—Boston, Buffalo, New York, New York
Atlantic—New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Southeast—Nashville, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay

Western Conference
New Canada—Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg
Mid-America—Dallas, Colorado, St. Louis, Minnesota
Midwest—Detroit, Chicago, Columbus, Midwest expansion team
Southwest—San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix

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  3. […] I talked about some different possibilities before the realignment in 2011. […]

  4. […] I talked about some different possibilities before the realignment in 2011. […]

  5. […] also wrote about the topic in 2011, but (in addition to being before the expansion teams were awarded) that was before the most-recent […]

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