Blog Entry

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Posted on: December 5, 2011 9:31 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 1:50 pm

By Brian Stubits

Look what the Winnipeg Jets started.

Realignment is coming to the NHL, and as was predicted, it's of the "total" variety.

Easy but incomplete ideas were floated (swapping either Detroit, Nashville or Columbus with Winnipeg in the Southeast and calling it a day), but in the end it was the big idea that won out. With Gary Bettman pushing it, you knew it would.

Gone are the days of divisions in hockey. The NHL will return to four conferences starting next season (names undetermined as of yet, but you can bet they will likely be historic). Two of the four divisions will have eight teams, two will have seven. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be played entirely within the conference before re-seeding in the third round, or Final Four, if you will. The NHL hasn't said yet how it plans to re-seed at that point, a decision will come later regarding that part.

It will also bring a schedule where every team will play a home and away with every other team.

Here is the proposal that was passed in a little less than an hour and with a 26-4 vote.

I can hear everybody now. Why didn't they just go the easy route? The short answer: politics. Well that and time zones.

"We had a number of clubs that were unhappy with the current state of affairs," commissioner Bettman said at the news conference to announce the realignment.

The Detroit Red Wings have a lot of clout. As an Original Six team who has done a lot of winning, that comes with the territory. They have long wanted to move to the East and have been very vocal about Bettman promising as such. That's complication No. 1 and it's alleviated. The Red Wings now will only play one game at each Western Canada and California arena.

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The same goes for the Blue Jackets, who don't carry the same clout but had the same concerns.

"This is a fantastic night for the Blue Jackets," Blue Jackets president Mike Priest said.

Complication No. 2 was the existence of teams like the Dallas Stars playing their road games two time zones away or in the case of the Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, playing a lot of road games three time zones away. By this grouping, teams are grouped with much more consideration to time zones. So while the idea of an Eastern Conference and Western Conference are gone, the Red Wings and Jackets get their end goal and will play with teams in the Eastern time zone and Central time zone a lot more.

Complication No. 3? Detroit isn't in the Southeast. But you knew that.

So we end up with this layout. There are honestly a lot more positives than negatives in this. The biggest consideration, time zones, was taken care of. Now the teams out West won't feel as big of a disadvantage as they do now. Despite having more teams in their new conferences, it was an easy sell for for the 15 teams that currently call the Western Conference home.

This really does seem like the best solution to please the most teams. The biggest problems I see? First is for the teams in the two eight-team conferences. They face longer odds than the other half of the league to make the postseason.

The second? The only teams that really seemed to get jobbed by the arrangement are the two teams in Florida, the Panthers and Lightning. Not counting each other, their closest division foes are in Buffalo and Boston.

Of course, one benefit to this new design is that it allows for flexibility in the case of the Phoenix Coyotes moving East. It would be as simple as putting them in a seven-team conference with the other Canadian teams if they were to, say, move to Quebec City.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Since: Feb 6, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 12:58 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

If HUNDREDS ( THOUSANDS ) of "US" every-day-regular-folk can CLEARLY see the OBVIOUS "modification" to the proposed Conferences above should be 'swapping' out the FLORIDA TEAMS with the NEW YORK TEAMS ..... WHY - WHY - WHY - OH WHY --- is the NHL not intelligent enough to SEE this as well ??????????????? I just DON'T GET IT  ........... VERY FRUSTRATING .....

Since: Dec 2, 2008
Posted on: December 8, 2011 1:04 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Florida and Tampa have to be happy with the division they are in.  Next time Tampa or Florida are playing one of the Northern teams on TV, take a look at how many fans are in the stands of the away team.  Think about all the people that move south to Florida in retirement due to the cold weather in the north.  Most hockey fans in Florida are fans of the northern teams who have moved south.  The Panthers and Lightning are hoping to get a bigger draw in tickets from opposing fans.  That's why they should be happy.  The move to this division actually makes sense from that standpoint.

Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: December 7, 2011 10:21 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

About a thousand of us think the Panthers and Lightning belong in the division with the Penguins, Flyers and Hurricanes.  And DEF the Rangers and Islanders go with the Bruins, Maple Leafs et al.  Almost everything about this re-align makes sense.  Whats up with FLA and TAM?  Those 2 just dont fit.  Is there another factor that were missing.  

Since: Oct 8, 2010
Posted on: December 7, 2011 5:30 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

As far as travel goes, with the exception of Carolina, the Philly conference looks to have it best. Like to see Buffalo instead of Dallas In Detroit Conf.  Yup. The Florida teams throw the Montreal conference completely out of whack. Losing Atlanta was a killer otherwise the south might have looked like this:

Tampa Bay
St Louis

Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: December 7, 2011 4:52 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Am I correct that the NHL is going to a 80 game schedule?

Since: Mar 29, 2007
Posted on: December 7, 2011 4:35 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

There should've been an Original Six (plus 1) conference.

Since: Sep 5, 2008
Posted on: December 7, 2011 10:37 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

Even if the NHL does not move the Panthers and Lightning to the sensible spot, this overall plan still seems greatly improved over what we have now. 

It would be nice to see the Rangers, Bruins, Maple Leafs and Canadians all together in one conference/division. 

Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: December 7, 2011 9:11 am

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I like the idea of Canadiens, Bruins, Maple Leafs paired up with the NYR, especially.


As for the idea someone floated with six divisions based on the Original Six, it's a neat idea, but too many problems at least with the way it was laid out. For one, while I don't have a problem with breaking up a few rivalries (especially when it makes better sense financially and geographically and the new alignment re-ignites old rivalries) that idea just breaks up too many heated rivalries and eliminates any of the divisional play between Original Six teams, which are some of the better rivalries.

The other problem is with the Chicago division....while the other 5 divisions have teams that are relatively close to each other, in that division you'd have Chicago and San Jose in the same division, which makes no sense at all when you consider the geography and timezone concerns. Since that is one of the things they are trying to address, ideas that just re-create the problem in a different form don't really make much sense. So, it is a neat idea in some ways to think about, but it wouldn't work very well.

Since: Sep 23, 2007
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:16 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I bet they'll name the conferences after Gretsky,Lemieux,Howe and Orr .

Since: Sep 10, 2009
Posted on: December 6, 2011 11:14 pm

NHL announces realignment to four conferences

I saw the same logical answer on about a zillion posts here.  Move the Panthers and Lightning and replace them with the Islanders and Rangers.  I like the idea of Canadiens, Bruins, Maple Leafs paired up with the NYR, especially.  The regionality of this sort of alignment almost makes too much sense.  Devils, Flyers, Capitals, Penguins and Hurricanes would get along with Florida and Tampa.  I like the Red Wings and Blackhawks cutting their Frequent Flyer miles by 70%.  No matter how I look at it, those Western conference teams are still going to log a ton of miles.  But at least minimal time zone changes.

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