My NHL Re-Alignment Proposal

With the National Hockey League set to vote on a new re-alignment for the 2012-13 season, I figured I’d take this opportunity to chime in with my two cents on what I’d like to see the league do.

So far the rumours I’m hearing sound promising, a four-conference or division split of 7-8 teams per — intra-conference playoffs for the first two rounds and a re-seed of the remaining four clubs for the semis.  Call it a conference, call it a division, whatever you want as long as this is the playoff format I support it 100%.

The biggest problem when the NHL switched to the conference playoff system for 1993-94 was the playoff pool became too large, I don’t mean the amount of teams that qualify – that remained the same – I mean the pool of potential playoff matchups/opponents became too large.  Pre-1994 a team could face only 1 of 4 other teams through the first two-rounds of the playoffs, rivalries were created quickly and fiercely.  The switch in 1994 changed the potential playoff partners from 4 to what is now 14 after a few rounds of expansion since then.  The odds of getting the same playoff partner over multiple seasons had diminished considerably.

The elimination of divisions tied to conferences with re-seeding following round two opens the doors for some interesting Stanley Cup final partners, for example Montreal could face New York, or Chicago could face Vancouver, in seasons past those matchups were impossible as those two pairs belonged to the same conference although different divisions.  With this set-up as long as the teams aren’t in the same division they could now potentially meet in the Stanley Cup.

That’s the playoff format rumoured, that’s the same playoff format I’m running with in my plan.

As for the league structure, I steered things a little differently…

You get a Norris/Adams hybrid in the Eastern Conference where five of the six Original Six franchises are now housed.

In the Atlantic Conference you get a return of the Patrick Division plus Columbus.

In the Western Conference you have four Canadian clubs merged with three hockey-mad U.S. markets – imagine the rivalries during those playoff rounds.

I do see some problems, namely travel, especially in the Southern Conference who gets a bit of a raw deal in this proposal in that it’s clubs cover four different time zones, a problem Columbus and Detroit had faced for many seasons, but my main focus here was retaining rivalries.

But this setup guarantees at least one southern based club will reach the final four every season (and 4 in the playoffs, 2 in the second round), hopefully growing the interest those markets.

A hypothetical post-season, I’ll rank and pick winners randomly

Round One

South Semis
Anaheim vs. Phoenix
Carolina vs. Dallas

East Semis
Boston vs. Detroit
Montreal vs. Chicago

West Semis
Calgary vs. Vancouver
Edmonton vs. Minnesota

Atlantic Semis
Philadelphia vs. New York
New Jersey vs. Pittsburgh

Round Two
South Final: Anaheim vs. Dallas
East Final: Detroit vs. Chicago
West Final: Calgary vs. Minnesota
Atlantic Final: Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh

Round Three “Final Four”
Detroit vs. Pittsburgh
Calgary vs. Dallas

Winners meet in the final

Is it crazy? Conceivable? Share your thoughts and proposals.