You may have seen my first proposal. I had the idea to just go the easier route and make fewer complications for the NHL Board of Governors. I figured that the less work done on a new divisional alignment plan, the less time it would take for NHL fans to understand the new concept.
Since that time, I have received a lot of feedback on what a new alignment should look like, as well as ramblings of fans from certain cities who are asking for better travel for their clubs.
Needless to say, I have caved in and seen the error of my ways.
We all got an idea of what NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wants when he made it public in July that this current alignment just no longer works. He wants four divisions opposed to six, also alluding to the possibility of a return of divisional playoffs.
A four-division set-up would mean that the divisions would not be as equal as they are now. Currently, the NHL has two conferences and six divisions. Within each conference, there are three divisions. Within each division, there are five teams.
A two conference – four division set-up would call for uneven divisions. Two divisions would have eight teams and two divisions would have seven teams.
A four-division league would also need a much different schedule to be made up from what we see now. Currently, every team plays in 24 games against divisional foes while playing in 40 same-conference, different-division games. That leaves 18 games to be played against anyone from the other conference.
Still following? It gets a little tougher.
Under a four-division league, each team in an eight-team division would play four of those teams five times each and the other three teams six times each (38 games total). That leaves 44 games to be played against the other 22 teams in the league. This could be worked a number of different ways, but the most logical would be playing each team twice.
The divisions with seven teams would have 36 games against divisional foes. Logic comes into play yet again, saying that each team would play each other six times each. That leaves 46 games to be played against the remaining out-of-division 23 teams. That means you could play each team out of your division twice, much like the eight-team divisions.
Playoffs are a breeze to understand after all of that nonsense. The top two teams from each division would advance as the top seeds while the next two teams from each division would advance as the lower seeds. After the first-round is completed, the teams would re-seed for conference play (what division you are in no longer matters). Then the playoffs carry on as they do now.
Keeping all of this in mind, let’s take a look at my proposal, shall we?
As you can see, I have brought back the Campbell and Wales Conferences, while renaming some of the divisions.
Some teams still face travel issues. The Coyotes will have to travel to Edmonton more. The Stars will be in Carolina more than once a year. Winnipeg to Buffalo is no easy trek.
No fear; I have a solution.
We all love back-to-back games, do we not? Seeing the Bruins and Canadiens play each other twice in two nights is always a treat. I push for more of this. A lot more.
Maybe two games in the same building for two or three nights?
That is something that is never seen in today’s NHL. How can it not build rivalries? How does it not cut down on travel for every team? Most importantly, I truly believe the fans would come around with the concept and wonder how they ever lived without it.
The Canucks’ trip to Phoenix won’t be so bad. Fly to Phoenix and play them in a back-to-back in Glendale Monday and Tuesday. Fly to Anaheim on Wednesday and play them back-to-back on Thursday and Saturday.
My idea may have longer road trips, but think about how exciting some home-stands may be. Joe Louis Arena could host the Chicago Blackhawks Friday and Saturday then welcome in the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday and Wednesday of the following week. Is that a challenging enough schedule for you, Detroit?
Of course, not everything can be positive.
Travel may have to increase for some teams. The New York Islanders may be guaranteed to have to travel all through the West Coast (this season they only travel to Anaheim to play the Ducks), but that could be knocked out in one trip. Maybe in November the Islanders travel to Dallas, Phoenix, Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose then in January they swing North and stop in Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Inner-division travel would increase for the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins with the creation of the Great Lakes Division, but they would at least be more on par with the rest of the league in travel distance.
Rivalries are split up as well (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; St. Louis and Detroit), but I’m going to use the cliché that I have heard time and again since realignment became a hot topic; new rivalries will develop. A heavy schedule of back-to-back games or playing in the same city two games in a row will only generate new rivalries at a much quicker rate.
It is my belief that under this realignment plan, the NHL would thrive. Eventually, fans would come around and welcome this alignment with open arms.
Sign it off, Bettman. Together, you and I have come up with the perfect solution for realignment!
This article was originally posted on NHLRealignment.com.