Wednesday, February 13, 2013

NHL Realignment Still Has 4 Conferences

For those hockey fans out there that were upset about the proposed NHL Realignment last year about having 4 conferences, well, your anger has not dissuaded the league office.  Here is a twitter post from Yahoo!'s Nick Cotsonika:

Daly says NHL has tweaked realignment plan approved by board last season, but it has same four-conference structure. Won't give details.
So it appears that we are going to have another showdown between the NHL and the Player's Association.  The PA is not happy about travel and also the fact that there are going to be conferences that teams have a better chance of going to the playoffs. Well, I say tough.  If the league wants to have this realignment, they should be able to do it.  As much as the players say that they believe that this is a partnership, during the Lockout, they didn't act like it was a partnership with the league.  So there are tweaks, let's play the what I think about realignment game:

 This is the old plan above.  I submit that the Avalanche is taken out of the Western Conference and put into the Central.  The Red Wings and Blue Jackets are taken out of the Central and put into the Eastern.  The Flyers and Penguins also go to the Eastern Conference and the Lightning and Panthers are shoved into the Atlantic.  So here are my divisions:

Atlantic                        Eastern                        Central                    Western
Florida                        Detroit                          Winnipeg                 Phoenix
Tampa Bay                  Montreal                      Minnesota                Anaheim
Carolina                      Ottawa                          Chicago                   Los Angeles
Washington                 Toronto                         St. Louis                 San Jose
New Jersey                  Buffalo                         Nashville                 Vancouver
NY Rangers                Columbus                     Dallas                      Edmonton
NY Islanders               Philadelphia                 Colorado                  Calgary
Boston                         Pittsburgh

Yes, I know that some rivalries will be severed.  Boston-Montreal, Chicago-Detroit, Toronto-Everybody Else.  But just imagine the Rangers-Bruins rivalry heating up yet again.  The Chicago-Minnesota, Minnesota-Winnipeg, Chicago-St. Louis rivalries actually getting more heated.  I am not a big fan of this plan, but I will withhold final judgement of this until the actual plan is announced.


Zebster said...

I need to be refreshed on this issue. What's the difference again between 4 conferences as opposed to 2 conferences with 4 six divisions? I'd rather leave Chicago/Detroit (especially because by moving Detroit east, it leaves Chicago as the only O-6 franchise in the central) Boston/Montreal together. Boston will still get plenty of NY and vice versa but the best rivalry in the NHL is Boston/Montreal...nothing else is close

Anonymous said...

I wish I didn't see this on my break. I need more time to dwell on this.

The 'Peg used to be Smythe division rivals with the Kings, Flames, Oilers and Canucks. Trade them for Colorado and I'm cool with that.

Brent said...

The NHL realignment with 4 Conferences means that you are going to have 2 Conferences with 7 teams and 2 Conferences with 8 teams. It does not matter about the geographic locations between the conferences. For a Semi-Final in the Stanley Cup playoffs, you could have a Western team facing an Atlantic team while the Central and Eastern face off for a trip to the finals.

The problem with the plan shown in the post is that the NHLPA is throwing a fit because the teams that have the most travel also have 8 teams in the conference. They want it to be that the conferences in the East have the 8 teams, so that the Western teams have a better chance of making the playoffs and using the extra money to offset some of the costs of the further travel.

That means 7 teams in the Western and 7 in the Central. If you put Winnipeg in the Pacific, you give them and Phoenix the longest trips for their divisions. That isn't going to fly.

If you leave Detroit in the West, do you put Nashville in the East and basically leave Dallas with St. Louis and Colorado being the closest division opponents? That is the only way that I can see it possibly working out.

The Original 6 teams don't matter much in the NHL anymore. If they were worried about that, the NHL would have paired the Rangers with another Original 6 team in the division. I can understand the wanting of leaving Montreal-Boston in the same division, but you run into problems because of the Flyers-Penguins wanting to be in the same division. And taking nothing away from Canadiens-Bruins, I think that right now the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is burning hotter. I suppose you could put Buffalo into the Atlantic, (which they aren't) and move Boston into the Eastern.

Overall, I would like for the NHL to go to 32 teams and have 8 Divisions of 4 teams each. Top 2 of each division make the playoffs. 1st Round is a 7-game series between the division rivals and then the winners are ranked 1-8 based on regular season points and we go for the Cup. But that is just me.

Zebster said...

Another than further diluting the quality, I'd like to see 32 teams as well. It fixes some of these issues, I think, depending on where you put the teams, of course, and whether current teams stay put.
What I was asking though is what was the point or supposed advantage to realignment in the first place...I just don't remember. We will disagree about the current significance of the Original Six but suffice to say if you remove them from the league, you have no league anymore. I'd be willing to bet half of all NHL fans are fans of one of those 6.

Brent said...

The point of the proposed realignment is to appease the Western teams. You have Detroit, Nashville, Columbus, Chicago, St. Louis, and Dallas all telling the NHL that they are losing fans when they are playing at Anaheim or Vancouver and the game starts at 10:05 PM local time. You have the teams on the West Coast whining when they go on the road to the cities above that they start too soon for their fans to make it home from work and watch the game.

You also have the fans whining about the same thing. The teams are wanting to cut costs of travel. They also say that the teams in the East have it better because there is less travel for them to take. And now you have the PA and the players parroting what the Western teams have said for years. So the NHL is trying to change the structure of the league so the Western teams won't cry about how unfair it is between the conferences.

I actually agree with you about the Original 6, Zeb. All that I am trying to say is that the NHL doesn't believe that the Original 6 are the special teams of the league. Otherwise, throughout the years they would have kept the Rangers paired with one other Original 6 team. In fact if you did it right, you would have Montreal, Boston, and New York in a division and Toronto, Detroit, and Chicago in another division.

Zebster said...

I don't mind the realignment and if it helps overall, then great. You won't ever please everyone. I think the NHL would prefer to keep some of the O-6 rivalries hot by keeping them in the same division while at the same time spreading those teams around because they draw well in all arenas. Too bad the O-6 weren't more like 12 but the Pens and Flyers draw well also, as do probably the current 'nucks. In fact, when I went to see a game in DC with G two seasons ago, I was excited the Caps were playing the Lightning. But overall the O-6 draw consistently well year after year, while these other teams it depends more on their current roster.
Great discussion. Where the hell's RJ?

Brent said...

He wants realignment from 20 years ago.

DC Homer said...

Personally, I think the League has moved past the O6. Yes, they draw crowds ($$), and I respect the history, and the rivalries, but it's not "about" the O6 any more, and shouldn't be. There are 24 more teams trying to build the same history, rivalries, and revenue. They shouldn't have to continue to yield to the aura of the O6.

As for adding more teams? I say HELL NO! In fact, I wish they dump some teams. Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arizona? Hockey towns? Gimme a break. These teams are barely drawing fans. I know some will say the same thing about Washington (or LA, or Dallas), but Washington is not Nashville, and this is not an Ovie argument, the Caps are a team that's been around for 40 years. And while they don't have the "real" banners hanging like the Habs, they consistently draw fans. And in the old Patrick Division days, they were competitive.

But this isn't about Washington other than to say I want quality play, in markets that really support the sport. I resent being in the Southeast--seriously! The Caps had a rivalry between the Rangers, Devils and Flyers, and the current alignment destroyed that.

As for the realignment itself, I'd like to see the following:


Traditiomal rivalries are maintained, and BECAUSE of geography, new (logical) rivalries are established (WAS/PIT, WAS/TB, TB/FLA).

Lastly, I think the time zones and coast-to-coast travel do affect the game and I'd like to see that minimized. On the other hand, I want to see more games between east coast and wast coast teams.


Brent said...

Hey G,

There were some good points that you put in your comment. But I am going argue about Carolina.

Let's see, we outdrew the Islanders, Devils, Blue Jackets, Avalanche, and Jets last year an average attendance. Same thing in 2010-11. Some of those teams should be eliminated before Carolina. Throw Anaheim, Dallas, and Phoenix in the scrapheap as well.

The Caps sell out each and every year according to the official attendance figures, so whoever says that they don't draw doesn't know what they are talking about.

And the argument that they have been around for 40 years starts to sound like an O6 argument. Who cares? While the Hurricanes haven't been in Carolina as long, the franchise has been around since 1971. That is 42 years. We have one League Championship and one Stanley Cup. A more celebrated history than some teams out there that play in traditional cities.

DC Homer said...

BK, I'm not trying to "attack" any particular franchise, I absolutely respect the Cane franchise history because its born of hockey genes, and it expands further that the "tar pits" of Carolina, and you have a Cup!! I'm criticizing the league's decision to expand for expansion sake. This could be illustrated best by Zeb's example of expanding the league just to balance the realignment!

The franchises I called out, I did so because their expansions or relocations (e.g. the Canes) doesn't advance the game--it's quality of play in the cities they're in. I'm inclined to draw my line that includes all of the Southeastern teams located in the "traditional" south (FL NC TN). The Hartford owner/GM being douches, low attendance, your proximity to Boston, and mediocre drafts (Francis) doomed the Whalers in CT, but the move to NC wasn't the answer. Unfortunately, what's happening in Carolina is the same thing that's happening in Phoenix (the old Winnepeg Jets), except not as dramatic as what's going on there.

As for those other teams in the West, I agree with you (I mentioned them) but I'd go as far to say all the CA teams should be included. I'm yielding to Canadian clubs because at least hockey is known and popular there, even in Winnepeg!! At least the Jets are "home," and done with this ridiculous experiment in GA between them and the Flames.

I'm hoping the "new" Jets, Wild, and Blue Jackets work out because they can be great assets to the league, and I was disappointed to see the failures of Quebec and the Northstars.

Lastly, there's no way I'm trying to compare Washington to any of the O6--that'd be ludicrous. What I am saying is when they expanded to DC, the Caps were playing in a conference of teams where hockey was an ancient tradition, and the Caps, the fans and the city benefited from it--not unlike the Blues when they expanded from the O6. But in the case of rest of the Southeast, the league was trying to "inject" the hockey virus in corn pone and chitlins choked veins, and I don't think it's working.

Zebster said...

I'm in favor of expansion because I'll assume the 2 new teams will be in traditional hockey areas -- Quebec, Hamilton, Toronto, Seattle -- and that the NHL will do everything it can to keep teams from moving to those places.
G, I can't believe your pissing on Ron Francis. I'll let Brent fight his own fight.

Brent said...

G's just pissed because the Capitals have never ever had a player as good as Ron Francis. Rod Langway, no. Adam Oates, no. Ovie, please. Hell, the Canes had Francis and even an aging Rod Brind'amour showed what real hockey players are like instead of the Crapitals. LOL. Nice jab. I deserve it from the Redskins blog I posted.

Besides, it took Ron Francis to put the Penguins of Jagr and Lemieux over the top. He is a man of class and dignity that was a true leader of teams and men on the ice.

And I understand some of the Sunshine belt teams should be moved to places that would support the NHL. Seattle, Portland, Hamilton, Quebec, and Saskatoon or Regina. Hell even Halifax. But not all teams South of the Mason Dixon line should be abolished. Moving the Islanders into their own market should be the first thing on the agenda. Next the Yotes move to Seattle. Then move Florida, Anaheim, and New Jersey. After those 5 troubled franchises have been taken care of, then worry about expansion to 32 teams or other franchises that appear to be in trouble.

And the argument that the franchises in the South didn't expand the game is false. Look at the college game. More and more prospects in college are from the South. Also, there are more kids being drafted by teams from the areas where the NHL expanded. California, North Carolina, Florida, Texas. It is a slow expansion but it is there. I don't mind the NHL expanding into those places, but if the market will not support the team like in Miami, Phoenix, and Anaheim then it is time to cut bait and fish in a different market.

DC Homer said...

"Crapitals?" "Pissing on Ron Francis?" Where did you get any of that from my comments? Come on, guys, I've very serious--I'm not joking.

I respect the players and the Whaler/Hurricane team. I'm not putting them down--I haven't said one thing that isn't true. And I'm not trying to compare the Caps to the Canes, or any other team. You guys are totally misunderstanding my comments.

The Whalers weren't able to keep asses in seats at the Civic Center, so the owner moved the team: their inability to compete with Boston in the New England market, the fact that Hartford was in a microscopic financial market, the merri-go-round of GMs the team had in the 80's, coupled with the fire sale trade of players (a la the Florida Marlins), and Francis' ultimate trade--all spelled the financial doom of the franchise in Connecticut--thus, the move to Carolina, where they thought they would dominate, and did for a while, but against who? Washington? Atlanta? Tampa? Florida (where the hell is Sunrise, Florida??) I'd wager you couldn't find 10 Floridians who know where "Sunrise" is!! What am I saying that isn't true?

Zeb, you're not going to tell me you, as an O6 purist, didn't giggle out loud when the NHL announced it was expanding to FLORIDA and ARIZONA!! And Brent, you're not going to tell me your heart didn't ache when you learned your team was moving to NORTH CAROLINA! WTF? Seriously?!

I'm not trying to turn this discussion into a debate about the Hurricanes, I only used them as an example of moves made by the league that just didn't pan out. I could have used Phoenix, Dallas, or Winnepeg as examples--they all have the similar circumstances as Carolina.

The fact that LA, Dallas, Carolina, Anaheim, and Tampa each have a Cup is a testament to the team, but a Stanley Cup doesn't turn tobacco farmers in North Carolina into hockey fans in the winter--there is no freaking "winter" in NC!! My entire family is from Raleigh and they live there now, I went to college there, I got married there--I go to Raleigh at least 3 times a year...I know Raleigh, NC, and when the Canes won the Stanley Cup, I could hear the cheers and screams from Connecticut, but Wake County had no freaking clue what had happened!! Hockey? Those country fuckers have no idea what a "puck" is, or who Lord Stanley was! North Carolina is a basketball town--period. Florida (and Dallas) are football towns. They're hand-jamming hockey into southern orifices where God didn't intend hockey to be!

That's my problem with promiscuous expansion solely for the sake of "C.R.E.A.M." (cash rules everything around me--dolla, dolla bill, y'all!)

I agree with the logic of the move of the Islanders--maybe to Connecticut, or Erie, or even Bangor! The Devils are a solid franchise, with a solid (non-NY) fan base--leave them be. I argue--get rid of the Dixie League teams, move THEM to Seattle, or Quebec, or Saskatchewan....and put Washington back in a division against its original Patrick Division rivals!

Brent said...

I was joking about the Crapitals comment, but I still don't agree with you about limiting hockey to the North.

The Francis trade was hailed by hockey writers at the time as a win for the Whalers. But the major piece in return for the Whale destroyed his knee two weeks after the trade. So it was not a financial trade, but since a year later the trade looked like a salary dump, the conventional wisdom is that they were dumping salary.

I guess my bottom line is that sometimes we old-time fans need to give up our preconceived notions and try to evolve with the times and the sports. This is one of those times for me. Hockey deserves to be played where ever it can grow and thrive. There are places in the South where it can and I hope that the NHL can soon arrive to the point that it has 30 somewhat thriving franchises, not the 15 somewhat thriving and 15 having struggling franchises that they do now.

DC Homer said...

BK, on that I can agree. I lived in Alabama for a few years in the early 90s, trying to follow the Caps. There are (were) a few minor leagues in the state and the University of has a thriving NCAA team, but the locals had no idea of the sport. I got into an argument with a local radio station asking why they only gave NBA and NFL pro sports scores (they never gave the NHL scores). The producer argued (ignorantly) that the average NHL player was small (like Tampa's St. Louis). When I showed him that the average height was 6'1", 210 lbs, and how fast (and non-stop) the game was, he was convinced, but the fact was none of his listeners knew it or cared. I believe that's largely the case, still in Dixie.

I agree with expanding where the game will thrive and where fans become knowledgeable and supporting--in certain parts of the country that'll take years; expansion needs an immediate fan response.

Zebster said...

G, I obviously misunderstood the Ron Francis comment. I don't mind the league expanding to warmer, nontraditional markets because it can grow the game for the betterment of all; but it has to be done smarter and slower than it was done.
As far as I know, the Kings and Ducks pay their bills and then some, apparently the Canes as well. That's good enough for me.
On a different note: I hear references to the Devils struggling financially and wonder where that's coming from. On the way home (early LOL) listening to a Monday afternoon game being played their and the announcer talking about a full arena. A new arena in a city by themselves, 3 Cups and a perfectly run franchise -- are they really struggling financially?
Great discussion!

DC Homer said...

I haven't been to NJ for a while, but when I was there (arguably in the throes of their mini-Cup dynasty) the Devils fans were rabid. They hated the trudge to the Meadowlands and I can only assume Newark supports them. I'm also surprised that some would consider the team struggling. Beats me.

But back to the main point, I don't see a problem with the realignment--it makes sense. But, selfishly, I don't want the Caps to play in the conference with the Dixie teams, I think they should realign Nashville with that division/conference, move Columbus and Washington to the east.

(sorry to get "sensitive" on you guys! :-) )

Brent said...

I only live in an area that has two franchises within a 500 mile radius. Both are sellouts almost every night. The Devils are struggling financially because the fans are staying away. Their owner his leveraged to the hilt and the spiraling salaries do not help the smaller market teams.

I believe that Devils fans have become spoiled. And when the team started to slip from Cup contention, they stayed away. The only barometer that I go by in figuring out if a team needs to improve is the average attendance.

The facts are that the Devils over the past 3 years do not average 16,000 fans per game. That puts them in the bottom 1/4th of the league. If the franchises in traditional markets are supposed to be showing the way, then the Devils are failing. I could care less if there are fans of the Devils in North Dakota or Kansas or Oregon. Those people do not attend a game more than once or twice a season in New Jersey. It has to be the local population that supports the Devils and they are not.

I hope that the NHL has a marketing plan to get the average attendance for all team to become 16,000+. That would alleviate some financial problems and it would also allow the NHL to market themselves as a major sports league again and have some credibility. If that means that teams in the North need to be relocated, then so be it.