While we are not done with this season just yet, the 2013-2014 season is just 7 months away and preparation is going to begin soon, if not already. With that in mind, the National Hockey League has the new proposal of the realignment of conferences all but set. Just last week, the NHL Players Association gave the O.K. for the realignment plan and all it needs is the approval of the Board of Governors and it will be in play for next season. We will see some decent changes take place is this does in fact go through and some fans are happy with the change and others are not so happy, me somewhat included.
The realignment will see only four divisions instead of six, with some Western Conference teams moving to the East. The new Divisions would be called, Pacific and Midwest for the Western Conference and Central and Atlantic for the Eastern Conference. The biggest moves are Detroit to the Central Division against the likes of Toronto, Buffalo, and Boston, and Columbus to the Atlantic Division against the likes of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington. Winnipeg does end up moving to the Western Conference, which obviously makes sense since they are now located on the side of the country.
The schedule would also have to change, as each team will play all of the other teams both home and away at least once. Each conference will also be affected by the schedule as they have the Western Conference playing five or six teams in their own division five times in the season and the other division team four times. They would then play the teams in the competing division three times in the season. The Eastern Conference, having more teams per each division, would play each team in their division four or five times in the season and the competing division three times in the season. The playoff scenario is also going to slightly chance as they will be making wild card system, where each of the division’s top three teams make the playoffs and the final spots being filled by the next two teams in each conference with the most points.
Now as a fan of the Buffalo Sabres, I hate this realignment plan. The Sabres would now have to play the Detroit Red Wings, who are very hard to beat once a year, let alone multiple times in a year. However, as a fan of the sport itself, I can see why the NHL would want to do some changes. Ideally, I feel the best way they could have solved the problem of Winnipeg being in the Eastern Conference, would have been to just move Winnipeg to the Western Conference and move Columbus to the Eastern Conference. If they needed to shuffle the divisions, so be it, but at least that way would be the least disruptive, in my opinion.
The one thing I do question is if any other team gets an NHL team in the near future, what do they do then. There has been talk about Hamilton, Ontario getting awarded a team and possible other cities such as Seattle, Washington, or Quebec City, Quebec. If any of these cities get teams, what do they do with the division and conferences?
I suppose if it were to be Seattle, they could just slide into a division in the West since each division only has seven teams. However, if Hamilton is awarded a team, now you have to look at another realignment to get things even again without making Hamilton go into the Western Conference. While these new teams could be years down the road, the system we are currently under seems to be just fine, so why the need to change is something I don’t quite understand, but I know the NHL has a reason for everything they do. Let’s just hope, for the sake of the fans and teams, that the decision is a worthy one and does what it is in fact intended to do.