Friday, March 8, 2013

NHLPA OK's New Realignment Plan, But Should the Board of Governors?

The National Hockey League proposed a realignment plan late in 2011 which was initially rejected by the NHL Players Association.  The plan included keeping the two conferences, but going from three to two even-numbered divisions per conference. 

The West would pick up the Winnipeg Jets while the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets would move into the East.  This would make things a bit uneven, with the West having 14 teams and the East, 16.

For the first time since the 1973-74 season four of the Original Six teams (Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Detroit) would be in the same division and five (New York Rangers) in the same conference with the Chicago Blackhawks rounding things out in the West.

The move makes great sense in some ways, and has potential to hurt teams in others.  For example, Winnipeg moving to the West will be a huge help for them travel-wise, considering they will no longer have to travel over 2,000 miles to Sunrise, Fla. to play an inter-division game with the Panthers.  However, the Jets then become a small fish in a huge pond, going up against teams like the Blackhawks, Predators and Blues.

An issue has already been raised with the uneven conferences that teams from the West have the advantage, because only six will not make the playoffs as opposed to the East's 8, giving Western Conference teams a seven percent better chance at the postseason.  The realignment is designed to make things more competitive, keep travel times down and keep fan bases happy.

The Rangers, Flyers and Penguins will stay in the same division, keeping those great rivalries together.  The Bruins and Canadiens won't lose any steam in their fued and should benefit from another historically great team in the Red Wings joining the mix.  The Avalanche and Wild will have a better time playing teams in their time zone and will no longer have to clear customs for every away division game.

Realignment makes sense in the end.  It is not like a long tradition is being broken, and this should add a good mix in the schedules, giving teams a better look at the overall playoff picture when it gets close to crunch time.

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