Friday, December 22, 2006


And they shall be named Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe

Bob McKenzie is reporting that "the NHL is floating an aggressive trial balloon" regarding schedule and alignment, the most interesting feature of which (to me) is going back to four divisions.

I could definitely get behind this, as well as playing each team in the opposite conference once (meaning each team would get to your building at least every other year). My one condition for support, though, would be that if this realignment takes place, then your division placement has to be the only thing that matters when it comes to "playoff-reaching" and seeding.

Based on what Bob is reporting, teams would continue to play division opponents about twice as often as other conference rivals (presently it's 8 Div, 4 Conf; would change to 6 or 7 Div, 3 or 4 Conf). But because their are (A) more teams in your division and (B) five extra games against the opposite conference, teams would be playing about 63% (~42/67) of their in-conference games against their own division, way up from the 44% (32/72) now.

This is sufficiently unbalanced that it would be ludicrous to award the 5th-best team in one division a playoff spot over the 4th place team in another just because their 82-game record is better. It has to be the top 4 teams in each division that make the playoffs (assuming we're still going with 4 rounds), and the 1st/2nd/3rd/4th rank in-division has to be the only factor that's relevant to seeding. This leaves a couple of possibilities:

1) Back to the divisional playoff format. I like it. There's a bunch of rivalries in this league that are still pretty epic thanks in large part to the divisional playoffs (that ran from about 1982-94, IIRC), not the least of which is this site's namesake. The Pens and Caps have been rivals since long before Crosby/Ovechkin, before Jagr went to DC and screwed the dog.

2) A pool format, kind of like international play or the World Cup of Soccer. If the Divisions are A/B/C/D, then the first round goes A1vB4, A2vB3, C1vD4, etc. etc.. The upside of this format is that if the two best teams happen to be in the same division, they don't have to meet in Rd2.

In fact, there's 2 different ways that this can go, too. If you need one Stanley Cup finalist from each conference, then Rd2 goes [Winner of A1vB4] v [Winner of A3vB2], and onward: the Champion of A/B plays the Champion of C/D.

However, if that's not a priority -- and I don't know that it necessarily is (I'm sure a Rangers-Flyers final, or Hawks-Wings, would be a godsend in some way) -- then you can mix it up a bit a la World Cup. Make Rd2 [Winner of A1vB4] v [Winner of C2vD3], so East and West are mixing it up already. Hell, you could even do that in Rd1 (A1vD4, etc.).

The other upside of this is that the whole playoffs have a bit more of a wild card, March Madness vibe. (The downside of course is that you're not torquing the divisional rivalries that are ostensibly developed during the regular season.) As usual, your mileage may vary.


If they simply should go back to the old names, I'll consider it a small victory.

From the tsn article:

The current Atlantic Division (the three New York area teams plus Philadelphia) would be melded together with four teams from the current Southeast Division (all but one of Washington, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida).

It appears that they would be going forward with the idea that there wouldn't be a team in Pittsburgh. Interesting.

It appears that they would be going forward with the idea that there wouldn't be a team in Pittsburgh. Interesting.

Selective reading, Alex. From the same article.

The current Northeast Division (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo and Boston) would remain intact and add two other teams to form a seven-team division. Sources say Pittsburgh is one of those teams that would join the Northeast teams.

In the new aliment, would the Oilers be in the playoffs right now?

Mirtle makes a good point about the uneven divisions. Is more shitty expansion to come?

Question: Is it a fatal flaw to have 14 (2 of 7) teams in the West and 16 (2 of 8) in the East, thereby cutting down on travel for the West?

Yes it is an advantage for the West, but so is being able to ride the bus 25 minutes to an "away" game. But I doubt you'd get 20/30 teams to sign on.

Ah, I missed that. Good catch, Andy. And by "good catch", I mean good job reading the entire thing.

Now, can we talk about what a dumb move it would be to split the Penguins away from their traditional rivals such as Philly and Washington? The Patrick Division should be reunited, and they can stick two of Atlanta, Carolina, Florida, and T-Bay with them and everyone would be happy.

What say we do away with the Conferences altogether - go with five divisions of 6 teams each:

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

I said it over at Lowetide and I'll say it again.

Drop six teams.

Atlanta, Florida, Phoenix, New Jersey and two of Tampa, Nashville, Washington and the Islanders.

As we all know, it will never happen.

Say its Nashville, then move Detroit back East and there's your two conferences of twelve, six in each division. Top four in each division make the playoffs and the format goes back to the way it used to be. 1v4 2v3 within the divisions.

Seriously, Gary Bettman can kiss my ass. What an idiot.

By the way, welcome back Andy, from wherever you were. Things have been tame around the interweb in your absence.

You people want an even easier solution?

Get rid of divisional play altogether. Eliminate the advantages that teams like Detroit and Nashville get, being able to beat up on three weak sisters all year and bank points.

Two conferences, 15 teams each. 4 games against each conference rival, 2 against each non-conference rival. Top eight in each conference make the playoffs.

Result? An 86-game regular season. That's too long? Either dump some preseason games, or contract 2 teams and do the same format, only with an 80 game regular season.

If they're going to 4 divisions, there's either an expansion of 2 teams or a 2-team contraction coming. And lord knows the NHL owners aren't going to pass up the opportunity for another round of expansion fees...

Well, I get that it's mathematically more elegant, but none of contracting, expanding, or adding 4 games to the schedule are "easier". They are harder.

Sorry, I'm on a "words matter" kick. :)

Matt: Expanding by two teams is certainly easy....easy money.

What, about 125 million per expansion franchise this time around? That would be my guess.

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