31 October 2011

Working with the Eastern Bloc in Realignment...

The four conference realignment topic has made a comeback. A Puck Daddy post yesterday included a CBC video (first two minutes or so focus on the realignment issue) in which analyst Elliotte Friedman reported a four conference realignment that is apparently gaining steam despite TSN's Bob McKenzie's report earlier this month that a six division NHL may be here to stay.

The proposal is to align like this...
(Division names are my assumptions, as they are omitted from the graphic in the video)

Pacific: ANA, CGY, COL, EDM, LA, PHX, SJ, VAN
Central: CHI, CLB/DET, DAL, MIN, NSH, STL, WPG
Northeast: BOS, BUF, CLB/DET, MTL, OTW, PIT, TOR
Atlantic: CAR, FLA, NJ, NYI, NYR, PHI, TBY, WSH

Each team would play home-and-home against each team outside of the division (44 or 46 games), and the rest of the games would be divided among division opponents (38 or 36 games).

As a fan of the Western Conference team, I think realigning the Western Conference into two divisions along the lines of the proposal above makes all the sense in the world. For most teams, they would cut the road games that start at 9pm or later local time by at least half, which would be great for TV.

The problem is there is no good geographic way to split the Eastern Conference in such a way without separating someone in the Atlantic Division. The proposal above seems to split Pittsburgh from all of their rivals.


Reports are there is an "Eastern Bloc" of teams that want to resist a four division alignment as it would increase their travel. However, I think I've come up with two good alternatives, that might help work with this "Eastern Bloc" and these plans I imagine could gain the favor of 20 of the 30 votes on the board of governors.

NOTE: Schedule explinations expressed as (number of games * number of opponents)

1) Only realign the Western Conference in two divisions, keep three division in the Eastern Conference, move one team to the Eastern Conference.

This is a modification of the plan I posted here in May, shortly before Atlanta's relocation to Winnipeg was made official. In this plan, the Western Conference is realigned into two divisions, while the East basically keeps their three division alignment, with one team added.

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Pacific: ANA, CGY, COL, EDM, LA, PHX, SJ, VAN

48 Division Games (6*7, 1*6)
14 v Rest of Western Conference (7*2)
20 v Eastern Conference (5*2, 10*1)

Central: CHI, DAL, DET, MIN, NSH, STL, WPG

46 Division Games (4*8,2*7)
16 v Rest of Western Conference (8*2)
20 v Eastern Conference (5*2, 10*1)

Playoffs: 4 teams from each division qualify.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Northeast: BOS, BUF, MTL, OTW, TOR
Atlantic: NJ, NYI, NYR, PHI, PIT
Southeast: CAR, CLB, FLA, TBY, WSH

24 Division Games (4*6)
38 v Rest of Eastern Conference (8*4, 2*3)
20 v Western Conference (5*2, 10*1)

Playoffs: 3 division winners, plus 5 next best records across all divisions qualify.

If the eastern bloc wants to keep the three division setup, I'm assuming they are also trying to keep their current travel schedule as well, which means home-and-home for inter conference play would probably be dead. To do so would mean a drastic cut in both division games and games against the rest of the conference.

I do imagine that an expansion of inter conference play to 20 games from 18 would be necessary to accomodate the Canadian frachises assurance that they can play home-and-home against each other each season, now that there are 7 of them. Under this plan, Winnipeg would host 6 games against Canadian opponents, where as the other teams would host at least 10.

This plan works the same if Detroit goes to the East instead of Columbus. But this plan might be good enough to keep Detroit in the Central, which would be good for the Detroit-Chicago rivalry, as it is reported they have made some concessions to stay in the Western Conference if they can reduce travel against west coast teams. If this would placate the Wings, I think it's better to send Columbus into the Southeast division for now.

2) "A Four conference" plan that preserves the Atlantic and Northeast Divisions

This is a variation of the plan put forward above, but would keep Pittsburgh with it's Atlantic division rivals.

It is a modification of a plan that NESN's Jack Edwards blogged a couple years ago. Unfortunately, it seems to have disappeared from the internet, so I can't link it. From what I remember, it included a four division setup by splitting the southeast and adding those teams to the existing Northeast and Atlantic divisions, keeping them intact.

(This plan also included the contraction of Atlanta and Phoenix, which I intend to ignore since we're trying to come up with something that might actually happen next season).

Pacific: ANA, CGY, COL, EDM, LA, PHX, SJ, VAN

38 Division Games (6*3, 5*4)
44 v Rest of the league (22*2)

Central: CHI, DAL, DET, MIN, NSH, STL, WPG

36 Division Games (6*6)
46 Rest of League (23*2)

Northeast: BOS, BUF, CAR, MTL, OTW, TOR, WSH

36 Division Games (6*6)
46 Rest of League (23*2)

Atlantic: CLB, FLA, NJ, NYI, NYR, PHI, PIT, TBY

38 Division Games (6*3, 5*4)
44 v Rest of the league (22*2)

Playoffs: 4 teams from each conference qualify.

Even though this requires the dissolution of the Southeast Division, each of the old Southeast teams still gets to keep one rival (Florida with Tampa Bay, Washington with Carolina), and these teams would be able to schedule their road trips in pretty easy strings since their opponents are much nearer to each other (unlike in the Western Conference). Pittsburgh gets to stay in the Atlantic division, and Columbus would also be added to the Atlantic in this scenario.

There are some potential tweaks:

1) Detroit could also move into the Northeast, in which case Colorado would move into the Central to make that a seven team division.

2) If an Atlantic division team moves (think Islanders for example), there could be a swap that moves Columbus into the Northeast, and Carolina and Washington could both join the Atlantic with their old southeast foes.

As I said in my May post, a two division setup in the West is far superior to the three division setup right now. It would cut a ton of travel out for teams at the extreme ends of the Western conference. Both of these proposals do that, and change the travel situation in the Eastern Conference very little.

I know every blogger out there has a pet idea. But I like to think that I have two things here that could actually pass, and be a better situation for as many teams as possible. How'd I do?

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