Hockey, Playoffs, Sports

New NHL Divisions

The NHL Board of Governors just approved this realignment plan. I am, for the most part, all for it. The plan was necessitated by the Thrashers moving from Atlanta to Winnipeg. Back in May of 2011, I discussed the problems for the current six-division system. Since the move, the Zombie Thrashers have been playing in the Southeast Division, about 2500km away from their nearest divisional “rival.” This new plan deals with that problem.

There are now four divisions:

  • Division A includes the all the most western teams, save Colorado;
  • Division B includes the Avalanche plus most teams that could be referred to as “central”;
  • Division C includes all “north east” teams, plus the Florida teams;
  • and Division D focuses on a the densest region of hockey teams

The 3 best teams in each division will make the playoffs plus 4 wild-cards, 2 from each conference, regardless of record. We can only hope that home-ice is based on record, not on which division a team is in.

The Good

  • The geography of this new system makes almost total sense, with the notable exception of Division C.
    • All the west coast teams are together, so they can stop complaining.
    • Minnesota is finally in a division with teams close to it.
    • As is Winnipeg.
    • Columbus and Detroit are finally in the East, where they belong.
  • Rivalries are generally preserved
    • Montreal-Boston, Montreal-Toronto, Ottawa-Toronto, Buffalo-Toronto, Philadelphia-Pittsburgh, New York-Washington, Calgary-Edmonton, Florida-Tampa (okay that one’s a joke) and multiple other rivalries are kept together
  • Old rivalries are revived
    • Detroit-Boston, Detroit-Montreal, Detroit-Toronto (if we can make the playoffs…) are all brought back from the dead

The Bad

  • There are more teams in the East than the West
    • Unfortunately, as long as the league bases conferences on geography, a geographically-sane distribution will result in an uneven distribution of teams per conference. Just look at the above map. Draw a vertical straight line through the centre of the US; there would be 9 teams to the west, not 14. We might as well have a “west” division and three “east” divisions.
  • The Florida teams are in what is essentially the Northeast Division.
    • This makes no sense whatsoever, but something had to give. Which would we fans prefer? The Florida teams in Division C or the New York teams? Personally, I would prefer the latter. But you know what that does? It destroys the recent Capitols-Rangers rivalry that the NHL loves. I still think it would be better that way. For me, this is the NHL’s biggest mistake with this plan.
  • Edmonton is still really, really far from Phoenix; Winnipeg is still really far from Dallas; Ottawa is still really far from Florida.
    • They haven’t completely solved the travel issues of the Northwest division; if anything they’ve democratized them. But a league with this geographical distribution isn’t going to solve this problem, ever.
  • Chicago-Detroit is gone. As are a few other rivalries.
    • We’ll get over this. After all, only Leafs fans miss the Blues-Leafs rivalry.


On the whole, this is much better than moving Winnipeg to the current Northwest division and then trying to figure out who belongs in the Southeast. (Nashville? Then who goes into the Central? Minnesota? Wait, that makes more sense…)

Okay, so it’s not any better. But it’s still pretty decent given some of their other options, unless you are a fan of a Florida team, and there are very few of those. (Plus, this way the old people in Florida get to see four original six teams all the time! That didn’t factor into this process at all…)

In all honesty, I will be perfectly okay with this distribution provided the NHL bases seeding on actual win-loss records and eliminates the point for an overtime / shootout loss…

Hmmm, that’s not going to happen. But I think that it is workable, for sure, and I think that anyone freaking out over this new plan is just afraid of change.

It could be a lot worse. Teams in Michigan and Ohio could be located in the Western Conference.

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