After 2011’s failure to come up with an agreeable realignment plan, the NHL recently released a new plan for redoing conferences and divisions. And because the NHLPA and NHL worked on this one together after the 2011 failure, it looks like this is the real deal. Like 2011’s plan, there will be four divisions with two of those having seven teams and the other two having eight. The top three teams in each division will make the playoffs and each conference will have two wild card teams. The top seed in each division plays a wild card team with seeds two and three to face off against one another.
According to ESPN.com, the four divisions will look like this:
The Pacific Division: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
The Mid-West Division:
Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.
The Central Division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto.
The Atlantic Division:
Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.
Geographically, the realignment makes sense, but other than that, you can color me underwhelmed. If this goes through, I’m counting on boredom for the next couple of years.
First, from a Rangers perspective, this is not going to be fun. Whereas hockey just got 10 times easier for Boston, who now has Tampa Bay and Florida to trounce all over, the Rangers got Carolina and Washington in the mix to add to their problems of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New Jersey. Sure, we got Columbus, but that would have been a gift for anyone. Teams like Washington and Carolina are going to be playoff contenders, so it’s just going to get that much more difficult.
However, that isn’t what’s really bothering and underwhelming me with this new plan. I’m not hot on the idea of wild cards in hockey either, but even that isn’t killing me. No, what’s really getting me is that there are two divisions with seven teams with the other two having eight. We all know what that means: expansion.
I hate the idea of expansion for the NHL. A league with a sport played on ice that has two teams in Florida should not be expanding. If it were up to me, I would be axing two teams right away and then relocating others.
Yes, there is a call for marketing in places like Florida and California, but let’s get real, there is no reason to have two teams in Florida and three in California. Maybe the number of people the NHL can grab in these areas is larger than in areas like Seattle and Quebec, but the numbers they will grab in the latter two places outnumber the potential fans for teams like the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks by far.
As a league, we don’t need to grow. Growing is not going to bring in the same number of fans that smart relocation will. There are arenas and other places that will bring in the fans the league wants, and it’s foolish to squander those opportunities.
But let’s be honest, why expect anything smart to come out of this league anyway? Real talk.