There is still a lot of Red Tape circulating around the new realignment that the NHL Board of Governors approved on Dec. 5th. And three big questions have arisen from these new conferences: What are the names going to be? Who are the Biggest Winners and Losers from the realignment? and Will this force a new points system?
Naturally, I took it upon myself to try and figure out some of these troubling questions and well some were a little easier than others to get to. So lets get into this serious stuff.
What will the new conference names be?
The old-fashioned 1980s part of everyone in the NHL community wants to see a throwback to the way things used to be before the NHL got all corporate and NBA-ified. Bringing back the names of the old divisions (Patrick, Adams, Norris, Smythe) has everyone’s nostalgia up and really, why not? Going with the founders of the league gave the NHL its identity and gave us all a reason to look up just who the heck these guys were that the divisions were named after.
NHL.com Red Wings reporter Bill Roose throws some water on our historical hopes saying he’s hearing that the conferences will be named geographically just how they are now going with Atlantic, Northeast, Central, and Pacific Conferences. Not only would this solution be boring but it’s completely inaccurate for the Northeast Division. Unless both Florida and Tampa Bay are relocating to Quebec City and Hamilton, Ontario there’s little chance for them to be confused with being northeast teams.
Finally, there is a 3rd alternative to the conference names throwing in some new school and keeping historical values in tact. The suggestion of naming the conferences after Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, and Gordie Howe is out there as well. Only issue there is naming a conference after a current owner (Lemieux) is probably a big no-no. Good luck picking an appropriate fifth person for that honor.
Who is the biggest winners and losers in the realignment:
Now most people will say there aren’t any losers in this new realignment but there actually could be some teams that hurt from the new conferences. And traveling is a factor to these teams when they are on long road trips.
Winners: Aside from the obvious Detroit and Columbus, most teams from the Central and Mountain time zones are big winners in my eyes.
Losers: Like I said earlier it is hard to pick out definite losers because there is a way to benefit. I would suggest that the Florida teams are the biggest losers in this but; Florida teams could benefit by getting so many games against the Canadian teams since we all know that the Canadian games draw a lot of people and huge crowds.
Will this force a new points system:
Now, we have come to the segment that should throw a red flag up to the NHL on what they may need to fix before they roll out next season. There is always underlining problems when you bring in something new and some of the worries with this new realignment are understandable. The biggest worry that is going to be an issue is the NHL’s point system.
As it always happens every year, there will be the situation where a fourth place team in one conference will have fewer points than a fifth or sixth place team in a separate conference leading fans of those teams to believe they got shafted. And rightfully so considering we see this issue now in the conferences.
The answer that is always thrown out when this comes up is “win more games” but in conference playoff races, a handful of points might make the difference. Just imagine what the reaction will be if say a team like Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, or New York missed the playoffs because they didn’t have as many overtime/shootout losses as the team ahead of them. And I do believe that Gary Bettman wants to avoid that issue altogether or fans will want his head in a silver platter.
A team going to the playoffs because they made it to overtime more often than another one? Insanity! And that would cause a huge blowout by the fans and the NHL doesn’t want to start alienating their fan-base more than they already have. There’s no doubt the shootout is a gimmick that’s here to stay, but fixing the points system would alleviate these worries. The NHL should make it so all games are worth three points. Win in regulation and a team gets three, but if the game goes to overtime or the shootout, each team gets one point and the winner gets the third.
It’s simple enough, it works in International hockey, and it’ll ensure that coaches and GMs won’t have a coronary at the end of the season because they didn’t play enough overtime games. Teams don’t want the shootout to decide games or playoff races and making regulation wins worth that much more should be incentive enough to make it happen.
Now that we have come back full-circle on the realignment issues and have attempted to answer some of the questions that are naturally bound to come up with realignment and changing the NHL. The new conferences are going to be tough, rivalries intensify, and the playoffs could provide a drastic difference from what we are used to seeing. Could you imagine a Flyers vs Penguins Stanley Cup Finals or a Red Wings vs Black Hawks Finals? That is just a few match-ups that could arise but; naturally Gary Bettman wouldn’t allow that to happen.