A brief thought on realignment in the NHL

December 29, 2006

In the previous post, I linked to the TSN article regarding the realignment proposal that is being floated in the NHL.  To sum up, it involves two divisions in two conferences (each conference would have one seven team and one eight team division), and Columbus and Atlanta switching conferences.

My reaction to the uneven divisions is typical of me, I don’t like it.  It’s unnecessarily difficult to administer scheduling due to the uneven numbers, and it’s not pretty.  Seriously, that idea begs for expansion to 32 teams (or contraction to 28).  I’m not a fan of this ‘solution’.  I don’t like it in baseball (where it makes no sense to me at all), and I wouldn’t be a fan of it in hockey.

Columbus, Atlanta, and Detroit all have very similar longitude and I think any of them could reasonably be put in either conference.  I wouldn’t like to be separated from Detroit by conference, and if Pittsburgh gets moved to KC (a possibility?) the team would be left without a regional rival to play more than once every year or so.

While I don’t like the uneven divisions in baseball, both Major League Baseball and the NFL have a conference/division system I could get behind.  That is having similar geographic divisions in each conference.  MLB has East, Central, and West in both the American and National Leagues.  The NFL has East, North, South, and West divisions in both the AFC and NFC.  This would be, in my mind, the best model to use to equalize (or at least even out a little more) travel issues for teams on the east and west coasts.

It’s been stated throughout the blogosphere and elsewhere ad nauseum how much more travel teams like Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary have compared to teams like the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils.  I completely agree that the current system favors (at least travel-wise) teams in the Eastern Conference.  By incorporating a more level playing field with regard to miles traveled in each conference, you may sacrifice a few of the regional games that are enjoyed now but you would even out the problems currently experienced in scheduling for some teams (the multiple long West Coast trips, many back-to-backs, and long layoffs experienced by many Western Conference teams).

Looking at a geographical map, it’s kind of tough to both preserve current regional rivalries and split teams into even divisions, but I think it could be done.  Two conferences, three divisions each.  I think this plan could be helped by expansion/contraction as well, but for now here is a preliminary look at the NHL through EOB colored glasses.

Conference One (Campbell, Wales, whatever you want to call it)

East Division

  • Tampa Bay
  • Montreal
  • Boston
  • Washington
  • Carolina

Central Division

  • Chicago
  • St. Louis
  • Pittsburgh/KC/Hamilton
  • Buffalo
  • Ottawa

West Division

  • Edmonton
  • Calgary
  • Colorado
  • Dallas
  • Minnesota

Conference Two (again, come up with your historically appropriate name)

East Division

  • Florida
  • Philadelphia
  • New Jersey
  • New York Islanders
  • New York Rangers

Central Division

  • Atlanta
  • Nashville
  • Detroit
  • Toronto
  • Columbus

West Division

  • Vancouver
  • San Jose
  • Anaheim
  • Los Angeles
  • Phoenix

It’s not perfect, but it’s an idea.  One that makes more sense to me than the crap of having uneven divisions and a continued East/West conference format.

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Come back soon.


  1. At least you took Minnesota out of Vancouver’s Division!!! If that’s what happens, I’m all for it.

  2. That never did seem very fair to me. It would be nice to have Calgary and Vancouver in there for the Canada flavo(u)ring, but it was a quick draft.

  3. I think everyone needs to think outside the box here. If you really want every team to visit every other team once a year (and I think you should), then there is not much more point to conferences since everybody plays everybody. So with that in mind here is my great proposal:

    5 divisions of 6 teams each. Each team plays every team in their division 6 times (30 games there), plus a home and home with every other team (48 more games), plus 2 non-division rivals a total of 4 games each season (+ 4 more = 82 games, same as now).

    Top 2 teams in each division make the playoffs plus 6 wild cards. Seed the teams 1-16 (division winners 1-5).

    I would call the divisions the tradional names, example Patrick: 3 NYC area teams, 2 Penn teams, and DC as it was years ago. I would put the 3 Western Canada teams with the 3 California teams, and so on.

  4. John, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    That’s not a bad idea, either. I’m not married to the 82-game schedule. It seems as though that’s where a lot of mythical ideas for how things should work go to die. Everybody wants to have some semblance of balanced scheduling, but with 82 games in a season, it’s nearly impossible to do.

    I guess we’ll see what happens.

  5. Well I would bet it would be almost impossible to change from 82 games because of the players union and the various contracts and agreements. Teams would not want to play any less and players would fight playing any more.

    P.S. I would put your Blue Jackets in a SE division with the 5 teams SE of you and I would make your out of division rivals Detroit and Pittsburgh.

  6. […] conferences is an unsolveable system given the geographical layout of franchises in the NHL, and I noted my suggestions in my post on realignment.  Herbstreit asked Bettman if Columbus would be the team to move, because of the fact that they […]

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