Friday, November 18, 2011

NHL Realignment

There's a lot more to sports than simply the games being played. Sports encapsulates so much more than that. There are conflicting personalities, intriguing storylines, differing opinions, and lots of drama. There is also a business side of sports. Each sports league is a huge business, generating tons of revenue. As a person interested in business, this aspect of sports has always fascinated me.

Although we do not always realize it, the business side of sports shows up on the news a lot. Realignment is one big issue currently, in college football, baseball and hockey. You can see my ideas on MLB Realignment here and my NCAA opinions here. I had some fun with those realignments. Here, in this post, I will be discussing hockey realignment.

There are essentially two ways to align a league. Geographically, like the NHL and NBA currently do, or by using two leagues/conferences spread across the country, like the NFL and MLB. For the NHL, I think a geographic alignment is better for the NHL, partly because it is the system already in use and partly to maintain geographic rivalries that are so important to the game. However, unlike the common east-west conference system, I think a north-south split would be better for the NHL. There are simply too little teams in the west to make an appropriately named "Western Conference" without actually including teams from the Eastern Time Zone. Furthermore, the large amount of Canadian teams makes it easier to divide the league in this manner.

So, starting with the Northern Conference, here is my proposed divisional scheme:

Northern Conference
Northeast Division
Toronto Maple Leafs
Ottawa Senators
Montreal Canadiens
Boston Bruins
New Jersey Devils

The Devils seem a little out of place from the Canadian and Original Six teams but I think that this division works well geographically.

Central Division
Chicago Blackhawks
Detroit Red Wings
Columbus Blue Jackets
St. Louis Blues
Buffalo Sabres

There is no way I could separate the Blackhawks and he Red Wings, so I put them together and formed a division with teams around them. This would instantly be one of the most competitive division; the Blues are probably feeling blue about their inclusion.

Northwest Division
Vancouver Canucks
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers
Winnipeg Jets
Minnesota Wild

The main reason realignment is even being talked about is because of the Thrashers' move to Winnipeg, and that problem is clearly solved. Winnipeg is in the Northwest, taking the spot of the Colorado Avalanche, who we will move to the West.

Southern Conference
Southeast Division
Nashville Predators
Carolina Hurricanes
Tampa Bay Lightning
Florida Panthers
Dallas Stars

I always felt a little bit confused with Nashville's place in the west, so I moved them over with some eastern teams, where I think they belong. I also moved the Stars from the west to make room for the Avalanche, because Denver is more western than Dallas.

Atlantic Conference
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals
New York Rangers
New York Islanders

I couldn't separate the two New York or Pennsylvania teams so I clumped them together and added Washington in the mix for some Crosby-Ovechkin intrigue. This should be ahotly contested division, and I think it maintains rivalries very well.

Southwest Division
San Jose Sharks
Los Angeles Kings
Anaheim Ducks
Phoenix Coyotes
Colorado Avalanche

This gets a little funky because now we have two thirds of the southern teams in the eastern half of the country. Travel will be a little difficult for teams in the Southwest to play teams in the Atlantic and vice versa. However, this was  a better option than to force Detroit and Nashville to remain on the west.

This concludes my realignment. Let me know what you think. It's not perfect, but I think it does the job well. If the NHL were to expand in central cities down the road from now, we might be able to do an equal east-west conference split, but now, I do not think that is a feasible option.

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