Ever since the Atlanta Thrashers became the Winnipeg Jets and moved to Canada, everyone knew that the NHL would need to shift teams and more than likely realign teams to fit into specific divisions and respective conferences.
The realignment for 2012-13 was released earlier this week and proved a drastic step for the NHL, leaving many fans shocked by next year’s changes. Instead of the East and West Conferences, there will now be four conferences, titled Conferences A, B, C and D (hopefully they’ll be changing that).
Of the four conferences, Conferences A and B will have eight teams, while Conferences C and D have seven each. Conference rivals will face each other six times a season, while teams that do no play in the same conference will face each other twice.
When the postseason begins, the top four teams from each conference will advance and one winner will come from each other four conferences. While this has yet to be determined, it is more than likley that the team with the most points in the league semifinals will face the team with the least amount of points, the same way conference post-season schedules are figured.
So, this was pretty radical and definitely not what most of us were expecting. While I agree with those who are saying this is the best the league could have done, there are definitely some eyebrow-raising issues. However, the changes for next season show promise for what will be rivalry-charged hockey.
For the Rangers, this isn’t that much of a drastic change than what we’re all used to. They’re going to see the Flyers, Devils, Penguins and Islanders six times a year, but now they’re going to play the Capitals and Hurricanes six times a season as well.
What really sucks about this is how the Rangers will barely get to see Original Six play. Being limited to two games against teams such as the Bruins and the Maple Leafs is a bummer. Despite playing these teams only four times a year now, there’s always an air of the hatred those Original Six teams once had for one another.
But there is a silver lining.
Some of the greatest Stanley Cup match-ups in New York Rangers history were against the Bruins and the Canadians. With the new realignment, the Rangers could theoretically play against either of these teams in the finals once again.
For Rangers fans the realignment shows exciting potential for what could be, but the new conferences and how postseason play works is not ideal for others.
As far as Conference D goes, if the trend of this season continues (which is very likely), it’s practiacally a given that the Flyers, Penguins, Capitals and Rangers will make the playoffs every year. It’s going to be extremely difficult for teams that are struggling such as the Devils and Islanders to break into post-season play. Carolina is a pretty decent team, but they aren’t as good as the four teams previously mentioned.
The possibility of playoffs becoming boring after seeing the same teams every season is definitely lurking in the back of hockey fans’ heads. In a way, the realignment puts more pressure on teams that do not perform as well because they have to play harder for a postseason berth.
Regardless of what happens, this realignment will aid the NHL and has a chance to show a glimpse of what some of the game’s greatest and oldest rivalries used to be like.