Realignment fever!: Better or worse?

Once again, Mr. Bettman has proven to be a ruthless an authoritarian dictator when it comes to league affairs. Okay, that was a bit harsh, but the fact is that he got the realignment vote passed in (reportedly) less than an hour. Perhaps he’s brandishing that iron fist of his, or more likely, he simply know what the GMs and their respective clubs and owner want and had no doubt the vote would go as it did. Like him, or hate him, he’s an effective dictator(strikeout) administrator.

Well, enough with the Gary digs. Let’s get to the meat of the matter. Old: two conferences (one in the east, one in the west, well, sorta) each comprised of three divisions (largely based geographically), each containing five teams. New: four conferences, two comprised of seven teams, two comprised of eight. In the old system teams played each team in their division six times, and four times for the rest of their conference, while paying each team in the opposing conference once or twice (on a rotational basis). In the proposed new system – gets a little confusing here – the seven-team conferences would play everyone in their conference six times and all other teams twice (home and home). The eight team conferences would play five or six games against each team in their conference (yearly rotational basis) and all other teams home and home.
Okay, playoffs: the old system awarded the top three stops in each conference to the three division winners. The top team would play the eights seed, etc. This continued until the conference champs are decided, who would go on to play each other for the cup – no reseeding. The new system starts out the same – 1 playing 4, etc. – and continues until the four conference champs are decided. Teams are then reseeded based on points at the end of the regular season (1v4 and 2v3) and play on until a champ is decided.
Okay, semantics are out of the way, let’s see what this means for the teams and fans. What does this change about the NHL? Well, the stated goal was to reduce travel time. Which is understandable. Just pull up Google maps and think about the travel time for a ten-day-seven-game series between Detroit and LA. Basically the idea is that playing within a geographically smaller ‘footprint’ makes more sense. Furthermore, though not said explicitly by the league, this system will likely foster more rivalries: each club would have 6-7 teams they will play 5-6 times, as opposed to just four. They lose the four game match-ups within their larger conferences (boy, this is confusing) but now play every other team twice. Biggest problem I can see is the loss of those four game series, but the change isn’t that dramatic.
Playoffs? Well, this is where the system begins to look a little… well, unfair. The math is easy to do. In a seven-team-conference, teams theoretically have a four in seven chance of making the playoffs (57.1 percent), while teams in the eight team conferences likewise have a theoretical four in eight chance (50 percent). Sounds small, for argument sake, if all teams performed randomly each year, a team in the larger conferences would make the payoffs five times in ten years, whereas the smaller conference teams would hypothetically make the playoffs slightly less than six times in the same time span (or more accurately, five times in nine years). This seems like a pretty big disparity. Obviously this is a hypothetical model and only accounts for conference numbers, but it’s still very telling.
The proposed system would also reseed after the third round of the playoffs, allowing any potential conference champ match-up. This wouldn’t allow any match up in the finals, but teams could potentially play any club outside their conference for the cup. This seems like a good idea, but it could have easily been accomplished in the old system (although I guess we’d have to change some trophies). I think a very interesting idea would be to reseed after the 2nd round. Perhaps they’d have to group the conferences into two, but this still seems perfectly feasible. This way any set of teams could theoretically play for Stanley. I’m sure Bettman doesn’t like this idea, but the fans would probably love it. Although a Toronto-Montreal cup final would likely leave hundred dead, no matter who won.
Final thought: Does anyone else get the feeling this is hinting towards expansion? Especially with the two eastern conferences containing only seven teams. Hamilton, Quebec city? Just throw the Florida teams into the other easternish conference (south eastern?) or keep one and put Hamilton in the other. On the flip-side – though I’m sure Bettman is absolutely not thinking this – drop two teams and go down to a nice 28 format. One thing is certain: Bettman knows what he’s doing and has a plan… we just aren’t privy to that plan.
Thanks for reading

7 Responses to Realignment fever!: Better or worse?

  1. TheOnlyIslesFan says:

    Joel I'm not sure how old you are but this format is going back to the old school format before Bettman I like the four conference idea and in fact I have already picked out the names for them.

    The Adams Conference
    The Patrick Conference
    The Norris Conference
    The Smythe Conference
    Let's be honest the old playoff seeding system was flawed from the beginning I couldn't stand as a fan sitting back and seeing Carolina or Washington make the playoffs with home ice advantage with  80 points when there were teams missing the playoffs with nrealy 90 points,
    Yes this will still happen with the new system but this does take the game back to the glory days of the 80's…let me show you what a typical NHL season looked like with 21 teams and the standings.
    we'll use the 90-91 NHL Season as a  prime example.
    The Hartford Whalers finished the 91-92 Season with 65 points and this terrible season earned them a trip to the first round of the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens – while two teams in the Patrick division had more points and better records and finished out of the playoffs in the Islanders with 79 and the Flyers with 75 points.
    It is what it is – and this happened on a fairly regular basis, I personally think this is the best move Bettman has introduced for Hockey…we'll see though I can't wait to see how a team in Miami fits in the North East but hey…
  2. mojo19 says:

    i get why people don't like the new system.

    This leaves for a potentially strong division with 5, 6, maybe even 7 playoff worth teams on any given year, but only 4 of them can make it. Meanwhile, there's a weak division with only 1 or 2 playoff worthy teams, and 2 or 3 shitty teams get to make it.

    In theory, the perfect system would be to have no divisions/conferences. 1 big 30 team league, the top 16 teams make the playoffs. No "strong conference" teams getting F-'d over in that case.

    But on the flip side, this puts so much more emphasis on the importance of divisional games. It adds so much more excitement when you play a team within your own conference in the regular season because those points are so much more valuable, and there is so much at stake. For this reason, I really dig the new system. It will be a new world of rivalries. Now hopefully the Leafs can solve this Bruins situation, haha.

  3. leafmeister says:

    It may be a situation of just waiting until Chara retires, or cloning Kessel. (Bobby Ryan anyone?)

  4. Steven_Leafs says:

    yes although there will be one team making the playoffs with less points than a team in another conference who misses the playoffs, it wont be as bad back in the early 90s. Back then only 1-2 teams per conference missed the playoffs, now we have 3-4. I don't think this is a big deal anyway, we do this now with our 2 conference system.

  5. Steven_Leafs says:

    I know they want less travel in the playoffs but why not just re-seed after the first round. Give the NHL a chance for any Stanley Cup championship. The NHL is already going to have 2 rounds with a lot of travel anyway, just make it 3.

  6. mojo19 says:

    true! Re-seed after the 1st round to allow for any possible Stanley Cup final. That's the best idea I've heard yet.

  7. dumbassdoorman says:

    What would anyone think of doing a 1-16 type bracket system? This would allow for dream Stanley Cup possibilites.

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