10 August 2011

Leopold perhaps leaks realignment, rightfully excited...

So I'm only about a month late to this party, but a month ago Wild owner Craig Leopold gave an interview to Kevin Gorg on KFAN (Podcast, skip to 22:00, or click here for the Star Tribune story) and may have revealed what is very important about the NHL's realignment plans for the 2012-13 season.

Leopold said the Wild will play in a division with "the Winnipeg Jets, us, the Blues, the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks and maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets – maybe not, depending on which way they would go East or West."

The two great things about this.

1) The Wild will be in a division with all of the other Central time zone teams (plus one more depending on where Columbus lands)

2) The Wild will probably be playing the minimum against teams in the "new Pacific" cutting their travel to these cities in half (also cutting the 9pm or later TV starts in half as well).

In passing Leopold metioned "we will be playing fewer teams in Canada." If he means fewer games against the west Canada and the Pacific coast teams, this would be consistent with the stories that believe a four division alignment means that teams will play home-and-home against the three other divisions and load up on games within their division (5 or 6 against each division opponent). This really mitigates the disadvantage of being in the Western Conference (maybe to the point where Detroit might want to hang around? maybe not?).

As I've said ad nauseum on this blog, the travel issues come from the four games against everyone in the conference in the current formula. While I understand the rational of the formula that it is better to schedule as many games as possible against the teams that influence the playoff race, it is far more burdensome in the West than it is in the relatively close-knit East.

Leopold is rightfully pleased if this is how it's going to shake out. He said, "I am all in favor for that. That is a grand slam, home run, hat trick for our team." That said, reports that "he gave away the realignment" plans overstate it a bit. He gave away one division which many people speculated on. Detroit was noticeably absent from the division he mentioned, fueling speculation that they will play in the East after the realignment.

Still giving away the "new Central" makes it pretty easy to infer that the teams to the West of the ones mentioned will end up in a "new Pacific" division. So he gave away half the realignment.

And from this we can determine the remaining teams will be in the Eastern Conference (Columbus being "in the air"), but he made no mention of how the East will be divided. Dividing the east has many unpleasing options as it seems to necessitate at least one team being separated from the current Atlantic division (and that could be a topic for a future post). For now I'm assuming Pittsburgh is the team to be moved out because of their proximity to Buffalo and Detroit, even though I hate the idea of having to separate them from Philadelphia.

If Columbus stays in the West I would predict...

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

If Columbus moves to the East I would predict...

Colorado goes to the Central, Columbus goes to the Northeast

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

And again, Phoenix's situation is wide open and may influence whether two teams can go into the Eastern Conference.

But in any event, Minnesota hockey fans should be very exited, and this would seem to be a win for the Wild, Dallas, Detroit, and Columbus, the four teams that struggle the most with travel under the current system.




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