To Realign Or Not to Realign?
How would you change the look of the NHL’s division format?
The league has made it obvious that the Winnipeg Jets will no longer be playing in the East next year and will be moving out west, most likely into the now central division. This opening in the East has caused quite the stir out West with teams such as Columbus, Nashville and Detroit desperately attempting to get their foot into the Eastern timezone. There has been rumours of the league just doing a straight swap with Winnipeg and Detroit just exchanging places. This makes for the least amount of change but a lot of teams would be left complaining.
Dallas and Minnesota both want out of their current divisions, while Detroit just wouldn’t quite fit in a division with the Florida’s and Tampa Bay’s. There’s an opportunity for drastic change in the league that could be advantageous long term, one quite similar to what Bob McKenzie mentioned as the leagues “Plan G”.
Here’s what we think: because there are just too many Eastern timezone teams in a league of 30, a 4 division format would work best. Group the teams by timezone as best you can, as follows:
Pacific: Colorado, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix.
Central: Winnipeg, Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis, Columbus, Nashville, Chicago.
Northeast: Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo, Carolina, Boston, Detroit, Ottawa.
Atlantic/Southeast: NY Rangers, NY Islanders, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, Florida.
Games would be chiefly based within the division so the league would have to go back to the old playoff format of having the 1st seed in each division play the 4th and 2nd play the 3rd in the first round of the playoffs. One of the leagues strongest marketing angles is the great rivalries they have so a divisional format for the first two rounds of the playoffs can’t hurt. People will be quick to point out that having only 7 teams in some divisions would be unfair as only 3 teams would miss the playoffs compared to 4 in the 8 team divisions, but there could be a crossover option of sorts where if the 5th place team from the 8 team division has more points than the 4th place team in the 7 team division they would be able to compete in the playoffs eliminating that 4th place team.
A lot of options are on the table, and no one option seems to work for everybody so what do you think? How should the league change their divisional format for the 2012-13 season?