My NHL Re-Alignment Proposal

With the National Hockey League set to vote on a new re-alignment for the 2012-13 season, I figured I’d take this opportunity to chime in with my two cents on what I’d like to see the league do.

So far the rumours I’m hearing sound promising, a four-conference or division split of 7-8 teams per — intra-conference playoffs for the first two rounds and a re-seed of the remaining four clubs for the semis.  Call it a conference, call it a division, whatever you want as long as this is the playoff format I support it 100%.

The biggest problem when the NHL switched to the conference playoff system for 1993-94 was the playoff pool became too large, I don’t mean the amount of teams that qualify – that remained the same – I mean the pool of potential playoff matchups/opponents became too large.  Pre-1994 a team could face only 1 of 4 other teams through the first two-rounds of the playoffs, rivalries were created quickly and fiercely.  The switch in 1994 changed the potential playoff partners from 4 to what is now 14 after a few rounds of expansion since then.  The odds of getting the same playoff partner over multiple seasons had diminished considerably.

The elimination of divisions tied to conferences with re-seeding following round two opens the doors for some interesting Stanley Cup final partners, for example Montreal could face New York, or Chicago could face Vancouver, in seasons past those matchups were impossible as those two pairs belonged to the same conference although different divisions.  With this set-up as long as the teams aren’t in the same division they could now potentially meet in the Stanley Cup.

That’s the playoff format rumoured, that’s the same playoff format I’m running with in my plan.

As for the league structure, I steered things a little differently…

You get a Norris/Adams hybrid in the Eastern Conference where five of the six Original Six franchises are now housed.

In the Atlantic Conference you get a return of the Patrick Division plus Columbus.

In the Western Conference you have four Canadian clubs merged with three hockey-mad U.S. markets – imagine the rivalries during those playoff rounds.

I do see some problems, namely travel, especially in the Southern Conference who gets a bit of a raw deal in this proposal in that it’s clubs cover four different time zones, a problem Columbus and Detroit had faced for many seasons, but my main focus here was retaining rivalries.

But this setup guarantees at least one southern based club will reach the final four every season (and 4 in the playoffs, 2 in the second round), hopefully growing the interest those markets.

A hypothetical post-season, I’ll rank and pick winners randomly

Round One

South Semis
Anaheim vs. Phoenix
Carolina vs. Dallas

East Semis
Boston vs. Detroit
Montreal vs. Chicago

West Semis
Calgary vs. Vancouver
Edmonton vs. Minnesota

Atlantic Semis
Philadelphia vs. New York
New Jersey vs. Pittsburgh

Round Two
South Final: Anaheim vs. Dallas
East Final: Detroit vs. Chicago
West Final: Calgary vs. Minnesota
Atlantic Final: Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh

Round Three “Final Four”
Detroit vs. Pittsburgh
Calgary vs. Dallas

Winners meet in the final

Is it crazy? Conceivable? Share your thoughts and proposals.

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71 Responses to My NHL Re-Alignment Proposal

  1. Nathan Term says:

    That is a really good question : How is the all-star game going to work? I personally love the idea of a mini-tournament of all the best players in the leagues. Anyways I love your proposal. And personally I liked it better when there was a rivalry going on however I felt like some of the teams were being held back by the fact that each year they had to play the same team. Just my thoughts.

  2. Aaron says:

    It only seems like certain teams are being put there that don’t exist, but we all know there are certain teams (Phoenix, Florida) who struggling. The non-NHL cities mentioned (Portland, Seattle, Quebec, Hamilton, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Houston) all seem to potentially house an NHL team.

  3. Cedric Baker says:

    This realignment would be the perfect opportunity to restore the original conference and division names, creating some two new ones to create three five team divisions. My model would look like this:

    Prince of Wales Conference (East)

    Adams Division (Northeast)
    Boston
    Buffalo
    Montreal
    Ottawa
    Toronto

    Patrick Division (Atlantic)
    Long Island
    New Jersey
    New York
    Philadelphia
    Washington

    Francis Division (Southeast)
    Carolina
    Dallas
    Florida
    Nashville
    Tampa Bay

    Clarence Campbell Conference (West)

    Smythe Division (Northwest)
    Calgary
    Edmonton
    Minnesota
    Vancouver
    Winnipeg

    Norris Divison (Midwest)
    Chicago
    Columbus
    Detroit
    Pittsburgh
    St Louis

    Dionne Division (Southwest)
    Anaheim
    Colorado
    Los Angeles
    Phoenix
    San Jose

    The allstar game returns to an East vs West format. The three division winners and a fourth seed, a virtual wild card, from each conference would qualify for the playoffs.

  4. Ryan Hubble says:

    Northeast:
    Boston
    Buffalo
    Montreal
    New Jersey
    NY Islanders
    NY Rangers
    Ottawa
    Toronto

    Southeast:
    Carolina
    Columbus
    Florida
    Philadelphia
    Pittsburgh
    Tampa Bay
    Washington

    Central:
    Chicago
    Dallas
    Detroit
    Minnesota
    Nashville
    St. Louis
    Winnipeg

    West:
    Anaheim
    Calgary
    Colorado
    Edmonton
    Los Angeles
    Phoenix
    San Jose
    Vancouver

  5. Ryan Hubble says:

    Playoffs:

    Round 1:
    Northeast 1 vs. Southeast 4
    Northeast 2 vs. Southeast 3
    Northeast 3 vs. Southeast 2
    Northeast 4 vs. Southeast 1
    Central 1 vs. West 4
    Central 2 vs. West 3
    Central 3 vs. West 2
    Central 4 vs. West 1

    and so forth

  6. Aaron says:

    ATTN: Ryan Hubble

    I like your idea, but with that format I would either rename the two divisions or conferences Adams/Patrick or Northeast/Atlantic. In other words, just fix them up as follows…

    Northeast (Adams)

    Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto, Columbus, Ottawa, Quebec

    Atlantic (Patrick)

    Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, New York, New Jersey, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida

    The other division/conference proposals are fine.

  7. Stone says:

    Hockey ‘purist’ (entitleist) much? lol.

  8. Victor Perez says:

    Here’s my proposal. This can’t be beat.

    AMERICAN CONFERENCE

    EASTERN
    Boston
    Buffalo
    Montreal
    New Jersey
    New York I.
    New York R.
    Ottawa
    Philadelphia

    SOUTHERN
    Carolina
    Dallas
    Florida
    Kansas City (expansion)
    Nashville
    St. Louis
    Tampa Bay
    Washington

    NATIONAL CONFERENCE

    CENTRAL
    Chicago
    Columbus
    Detroit
    Minnesota
    Pittsburgh
    Toronto Legacy (expansion)
    Toronto M.L.
    Winnipeg

    WESTERN
    Anaheim
    Calgary
    Colorado
    Edmonton
    Los Angeles
    Phoenix
    San Jose
    Vancouver

  9. Rich says:

    How about this?
    East
    SE-FLA, TBL, CAR, WSH, CBJ
    NE-BOS, MTL, OTT, TOR, BUF
    ATL-PIT, PHI, NYI, NYR, NJD
    West
    Central/Midwest-DET, NSH, CHI, STL, MIN
    SW-DAL, PHX, ANA, LAK, SJS
    Pacific/NW-VAN, EDM, CAL, COL, WPG

    Someone had an idea for going back to Smythe/Patrick/Wales, etc, etc…I kinda liked that idea. ON the other hand, East/West, Atlantic/Northwest is a lot easier to remember

  10. Blitz says:

    It’s a nice thought, however having T-Bay & Anaheim in the same conference is a jet-lag nightmare… not to mention the TV time zone differences… gotta be north-south unfortunately

  11. Dave says:

    I understand they are hockey markets and Florida, Phoenix, Dallas etc. are struggling, but the reality is none of this relocation or expansion isn’t happening for the upcoming season. So really its all just fantasy some of these realignment scenarios. The more I look at the one that got approved by the NHL, the more I’m okay with it. I like the new regular season structure with everyone playing each other twice, but I’m not liking the playoff scenario they are proposing. The way it is laid out for next season does give them room to relocate a team out west to the east quite easily.

  12. Luis Santiago says:

    Chris,
    Love the website, as I am not only a huge sports buff, but a lover of logos as I am practicing designer/artist. Here goes my realignment proposal. Keep in mind the return of the Campbell and Wales Conferences, with three divisions in each. I modeled my proposal after Major League Baseball with its three divisions, and the NFL, with its overall interleague play. I know I will get hammered for ruining rivalries, but, what the hell.

    CAMPBELL CONFERENCE

    EAST DIVISION:
    Boston Bruins
    New Jersey Devils
    New York Rangers
    Philadelphia Flyers
    Tampa Bay Lightning

    CENTRAL DIVISION:
    Buffalo Sabres
    Columbus Blue Jackets
    Minnesota Wild
    Ottawa Senators
    Toronto Maple Leafs

    WEST DIVISION:
    Anaheim Ducks
    Dallas Stars
    Edmonton Oilers
    Phoenix Coyotes
    Winnipeg Jets

    WALES CONFERENCE

    EAST DIVISION:
    Carolina Hurricanes
    Florida Panthers
    New York Islanders
    Pittsburgh Penguins
    Washington Capitals

    CENTRAL DIVISION:
    Chicago Blackhawks
    Detroit Red Wings
    Montreal Canadians
    Nashville Predators
    St. Louis Blues

    WEST DIVISION:
    Calgary Flames
    Colorado Avalanche
    Los Angeles Kings
    San Jose Sharks
    Vancouver Canucks

  13. Aaron says:

    Since there’s no expansion on the horizon as of yet, here is my re-alignment proposal for next season…

    Conference A

    Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado

    Conference B

    Same as originally proposed by the NHL.

    Conference C

    Montreal, Quebec, Boston, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida

    Conference D

    Same as proposed by the NHL.

    Reason for proposing it this way,

    1> It’s based on the Phoenix situation and the fact that Quebec City wants back in the NHL.

    2> This way it would leave two sides with an 7/8 team format which seems to make sense right now.

  14. Gordon Long says:

    I think they’ll wait some time before trying to expand with new franchises, and merely allow some relocations. Even though the league brags about its stability during the Original Six era, in reality, for about half of that era, the league was hanging on. It needed to be stable before they could think about adding franchises, but it’s been rather a rather haphazard process ever since the Second Six joined the league. The two-a-year process of the early 70s was a good idea, but because they were also fighting the WHA for two of those expansions, the best laid plans fell apart…

    For the most part, I like your bold plan for realignment, especially the Southern Conference. To pull that one off, the league would have to line the schedule up like the NBA sometimes does with trips through the Texas Triangle (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio) or the California Four (Golden State, Sacramento, Los Angeles x2). In fact, it would seem that they should build the league’s schedule around the Southern Conference. since Bettman is so eager to grow the new markets of the Sunbelt. Start the travelers in South Florida and hop westward to the Pacific. Eight games in fifteen days–one tenth of the season–for the Atlantic, Eastern, and Western teams.

    The only thing I don’t like from your plan, and agree with others, is to swap out Boston and Columbus.

    I have four plans of my own. The first one is a ‘simple’ realignment.

    National Hockey League–Two conference/Six division format

    Eastern Conference

    Atlantic Division: Boston, Montreal, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers
    Retains three of the Original 6; keeps Boston-Montreal, Boston-New York, and NJ-NYI-NYR rivalries red-hot.

    Capitol Division:
    Buffalo, Columbus, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
    Has three capitols–current US in Washington and former US in Philly, plus state of Ohio in Columbus; retains Philly-Pitt, Philly-Wash, and Buff-Pitt rivalries, enhances Col-Pitt rivalry.

    Southern Division: Carolina, Dallas, Florida, Nashville,
    Tampa Bay
    The most spread of the East divisions, but everyone is in one of Bettman’s prize markets; will help Nashville-Carolina rivalry grow.

    Western Conference

    Northern Division: Chicago, Detroit, Ottawa, St. Louis,
    Toronto
    Natural counterpart to the Southern Division; big division; has the other three of the Original 6, reuniting Toronto with their fellow western teams Chicago and Detroit while maintaining Toronto-Ottawa and Chicago-St. Louis rivalries.

    Northwest Division: Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota, Vancouver, Winnipeg.
    Restores the classic Western Canada rivalries dating back to the 1920s (before the NHL became sole possessor for the Stanley Cup), as well as the Minn-Winn rivalry.

    Southwest Division: Anaheim, Colorado, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose.
    These cities have been regional rivals since the Sixties in all the sports, and Southern Cal-Bay Area is more than 100 years old.

    Three more proposals coming up…

  15. Gordon Long says:

    Proposal #2, based on what the league is moving to.

    National Hockey League–Four conference format
    Northeast Conference: Boston, Montreal, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Ottawa, Toronto
    Continues Boston-Montreal, Boston-New York, Ottawa-Toronto, and Montreal-Toronto rivalries. Admittedly breaks up the NYI-NYR-NJ rivaly in the expectation that a Coyotes shift to Toronto, Hamilton, or Quebec is most likely (or even Rochester, LOL).

    Southeast Conference: Carolina, Florida, Nashville, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington.
    Retains existing Southeast rivalries plus adds the long-overdue Carolina-Nashville one, keeps Phil-Pitt and Phil-Wash, and enhances NJ-Phil but because NJ is in the NY area will draw NYI/NYR fans to see Ovechkin and Crosby.

    Central Conference: Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, St. Louis, Winnipeg.
    Restores Minn-Winn rivalry; retains Minn-StL, Chi-StL, Chi-Det, Dall-Colo, Det-Colu rivalries.

    Western Conference: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver.
    Retains all existing rivalries. Allows a Phoenix franchise shift to Portland, San Francisco/Oakland, San Diego, or Salt Lake City without altering league structure.

    In the event of a Coyotes shift to Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Kansas City, or Houston, Colorado can trade divisions with the Coyotes franchise easily.

    I’m one of those who prefers geographic names to the named-for divisions/conferences. I paid attention to the NBA first…and so the geographically-named divisions feel right. (You can’t imagine how incredibly negative I feel towards the Big Ten’s Legends and Leaders divisions!!!) However, I do appreciate the historical appreciations that the NHL has towards its founders. To that end, I would forge trophies for the six classic names. The divisional playoff winner in the Central Conference gets the Norris trophy, the divisional playoff winner in the Western Conference gets the Smythe trophy, and the semifinal playoff winner between the Central and Western Conferences gets the Campbell Cup. Similarly, the Northeast winner gets the Adams trophy and the Atlantic winner gets the Patrick trophy, while the Northeast-vs.-Atlantic champion gets the Wales Cup.

  16. Gordon Long says:

    Proposal #3: Based on a recommendation, probably sarcastic, I saw on Yahoo responses to the realignment by coming up with a three-conference proposal!

    National Hockey League–Three conference/Six division format

    American Hockey Conference
    Eastern Division: Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, New York Islanders, Washington.
    Western Division: Anaheim, Colorado, Dallas, Florida, Minnesota.

    Eight of these places spent varying amounts of time in the AFL of the 1960s, six are in the American League, and eight were in the ABA. Has one of the Original Six.

    Canadian Hockey Conference
    Eastern Division: Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, Ottawa, Toronto.
    Western Division: Calgary, Columbus, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg.

    The only way to divide the league evenly into three conferences was to add three US teams to the Canadian teams. There is a precedent for this when the NFL merged with the AFL, three NFL teams joined the AFL teams in the new AFC. Previously, when the NFL absorbed three teams from the AAFC, it briefly used American and National conferences before reverting to Eastern and Western divisions. The WHA used East, West, and Canadian divisions in the 1974-75 and 75-76 seasons. And most importantly, the NHL had American and Canadian divisions (the latter of which had 4 Canadian teams and the NY Americans, which were formerly the Hamilton Tigers, and in one season, the St. Louis Eagles, formerly the Ottawa Senators) from 1926-27 through 1937-38, after which time the Montreal Maroons folded and reduced the league to a single seven-team division. New Jersey was placed here as it was the third New York-area team, and Columbus and Nashville have not had substantial major league existences in any sports until the 1990s. Has two of the Original Six.

    National Hockey Conference
    Eastern Division: Detroit, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay.
    Western Division: Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Jose.

    Extensive presences for these squads in the NFL/NFC, the NL, and the NBA (allowing for San Jose to represent San Francisco). Has three of the Original Six. Retains important rivalries for Phil-Pitt, Chi-Det, NY-LA (cooled since Gretzky retired), Chi-StL, LA-SJ, LA-Phnx.

    One more proposal coming up!

  17. Gordon Long says:

    The playoff structure in the three-conference league: Six division winners, ten at-large teams. At-larges #7 and 8 have home-ice advantage in the first round. Re-seed playoffs after every round.

    Make all best of seven series follow the NBA Finals format of 2-3-2: 2 games in the city with home ice advantage, up to three if necessary in the other city, and then up to 2 more if necessary in the home-ice winner’s city. This idea is to decrease the travel that follows in the traditional 2-2-1-1-1 that the NBA uses in earlier rounds, and that the NHL uses in all rounds. The 2-3-2 is adapted originally from baseball, who used it first in the World Series, then added it to the League Championship Series and then to the Divisional Playoff Round.

  18. Gordon Long says:

    My final proposal is a variant of my #2 and #3 realignments.

    National Hockey League–Four conference format

    American Hockey Conference: Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Colorado, Dallas, New York Islanders, Washington Capitols.
    Key rivalries: Boston-New York, Colorado-Dallas.

    Canadian Hockey Conference: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg.
    Key rivalries: All, but especially Calg-Edm, Mont-Tor, Ott-Tor, Calg-Winn.

    National Hockey Conference: Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis.
    Key rivalries: Chi-Det, LA-NY, NY-Phil, LA-Phnx, Chi-StL, Phil-Pitt.

    World Hockey Conference: Carolina, Columbus, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, New Jersey, San Jose, Tampa Bay.
    Key rivalries: Carolina-Nashville, Flo-TB.

    The comments from above about American or National Conference cities still apply. This has the beauty of locking the Canadian teams into one division (many people have accused Bettman of wanting just that!)–or horror. The World Conference cities is ‘named’, if you will, after the World Hockey Assocation (and lesserly, there was also a World Football League in the 1970s). Carolina (Charlotte), Florida, and Tampa Bay were in the WFL. The WHA included as member cities Minnesota and New Jersey, and there were phantom teams in Florida (Miami) and the Bay Area (San Francisco). Ohio had teams in Cleveland and Cincinnati in the WHA and now has Columbus. Nashville isn’t that far from Birmingham, a one-time WHA member. And finally….the Hurricanes franchise, before it transferred to Carolina, once called the WHA home, playing as the New England Whalers first in Boston and then Springfield Massachusetts, and then in Hartford before the shift to Raleigh.

    Because the conferences are much different in proposal #4 than in #2, I think you’d have to go with a whole different set of trophy names for the divisional playoff winners. American: Orr (Bobby Orr, of Boston). Canadian: Richard (Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, of Montreal). National: Howe (Gordie Howe, of Detroit). World: Hull (Bobby Hull, of the WHA). These are probably the four biggest hockey names between 1945 and 1980. Then let the World and National champs play semifinals for the Lemieux Cup (Mario Lemieux, of Pittsburgh in the National), and the American and Canadian champs for the Gretzky Cup (Wayne Gretzy, of Edmonton in the Canadian). They are the two most important names in the league between 1979 and 2000. Sorry I couldn’t find room for goalie names…

  19. Aaron says:

    Here’s a different proposal I have for the re-alignment situation with expansion…

    Wales Conference

    North

    Toronto
    Buffalo
    Pittsburgh
    Columbus

    East

    Montreal
    Quebec
    Ottawa
    Boston

    Atlantic

    Philadelphia
    New York
    New York
    New Jersey

    South-Atlantic

    Washington
    Carolina
    Florida
    Tampa Bay

    Campbell Conference

    Central

    Detroit
    Chicago
    St. Louis
    Minnesota

    Midwest

    Winnipeg
    Nashville
    Kansas City or Houston
    Dallas

    West

    Los Angeles
    Anaheim
    San Jose
    Colorado

    Northwest-Pacific

    Vancouver
    Portland or Seattle
    Calgary
    Edmonton

  20. I'm just speaking the truth says:

    Won’t work. I like the idea but it’s a time zone problem, hence why Detroit wants into the Eastern Conference.

    The southern conference spans across 4 time zones.

  21. Matt says:

    My pick and I think easiest thing would be to move Nashville to Atlanta’s old division and move Winnipeg to the Central. Easy. Simple. No major changes!

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