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A Proposal for NHL Realignment

The new plan would see the Leafs and Red Wings reunite their rivalry.

With the draft finished, and a highly unspectacular one at that, I figured I’d take a stab at this whole realignment thing. I think the NHL would benefit from the boost a realignment would provide especially with the NBA lockout a seemingly inevitable possibility. So, below I’ve used four divisions (a move the NHL wants to make away from the current six), time zones, and traditional rivalries as my main criteria for realignment. The division names were just chosen randomly and can be fixed in any way people see fit.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

CAMPBELL DIVISION
BOSTON BRUINS
BUFFALO SABRES
DETROIT RED WINGS
MONTREAL CANADIENS
OTTAWA SENATORS
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
WASHINGTON CAPITALS

NORRIS DIVISION
CAROLINA HURRICANES
FLORIDA PANTHERS
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
NEW YORK RANGERS
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

WESTERN CONFERENCE

LADY BYNG DIVISION
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
COLORADO AVALANCHE
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
DALLAS STARS
MINNESOTA WILD
NASHVILLE PREDATORS
PHOENIX COYOTES
ST. LOUIS BLUES

HART DIVISION
ANAHEIM DUCKS
CALGARY FLAMES
EDMONTON OILERS
LOS ANGELES KINGS
SAN JOSE SHARKS
VANCOUVER CANUCKS
WINNIPEG JETS

 Aside from my horrendous attempts at displaying the divisions in an aesthetically pleasing way (forgive my programming skills), I think the breakdown above is realistically possible (unlike ESPN’s farfetched “what ifs” for the NHL in 2032). There’s no introduction of European or North American teams that don’t exist and there is no contraction of any franchises. The next problem became figuring out a way to balance the schedule. I believe I’ve come up with a system that minimizes almost entirely the imbalanced schedule.

The schedule is broken up based on divisions, conferences, and number of teams per division. So, for the two 7-team divisions the schedules are identical in terms of how the number of games are divided. Let’s start with them and take a team to provide the example. Who better than the Toronto Maple Leafs to show how this works?

So, the Leafs would play each division team four times for a total of: 24 games.
The Leafs would play each non-divisional Eastern Conference team three times for a total of: 24 games.
Then, the Leafs would play each Western Conference team two times for a total of: 30 games.

The Maple Leafs would play 78 games and have a nicely balanced schedule. The one problem? I don’t see owners wanting to lose 2 home games per year. However, I’ve come up with a solution. In order to rectify that the Leafs could have one more game against four more divisional teams. So let’s say they played the Canadiens, Bruins, Red Wings, and Senators one more time for a total of 5 divisional games against those four teams while playing just 4 divisional games against the Sabres and Capitals. In future years the divisional schedule can be altered so that the Leafs play the Capitals and Sabres five times in order to make up for an imbalance.

That would bring the Leafs to a total of 82 games, make the owners happy because they get to retain all 41 home games, and brings the fans an extra divisional game against a traditional rival. This system would work the same in the Western Conference’s 7-team division for any of the teams.

Next, let’s take a look at the 8-team division in the Eastern Conference and see how the schedule would look.

The Penguins would play each non-divisional Eastern Conference opponent 3 times for a total of: 21 games.
Next, they would play each Western Conference opponent 2 times for a total of: 30 games.
Finally, the Penguins would play each divisional opponent 4 times for a total of: 28 games.

That’s a total of 79 games. Again, in order to fix this problem the Penguins could play the Flyers, Rangers, and Devils one more time for a grand total of 82 games. This, of course, would also work the same way for the Western Conference’s 8-team division.

So, there you have it. A simple realignment proposal that sees every team in the league enter your building along with an extra game to promote traditional rivalries and lessens as much as possible travel and time zone changes. The one thing I haven’t taken into account is how to make sure there is a perfect balance of home and away games, but I have to leave something for the board to do. What do you guys think of the proposal?

Note* – 8 teams from each conference would make the playoffs. The two division winners + 2 division runner ups automatically qualify. The 4 remaining playoff spots could go to any team. Hypothetically, you could have 6 teams from the same division make the playoffs. That’s just a proposal for the playoff seeding that was inspired by the CFL.

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