New School NHL Gets an Old Time Hockey Facelift, Realignment >
 
 


We all knew something had to be done.  The day the Thrashers left that hockey hotbed of Atlanta and headed west, and north, the NHL began turning the gears on a new realignment plan.  I don’t think any of us knew just how radical the new realignment plans would be.  Let’s delve into the plans set forth by the NHL’s board of governors.


Prior to 1993 a very similar format was used, only the terminology was different.  There were 4 “divisions”, the Adams, Patrick, Norris, and Smythe.  Similar to next year’s plan, the top four teams in each division qualified for the playoffs.  


Now that you have a little background on the historic feel to this “new” alignment, let’s take a look at what the NHL has set up for next year.


The plan is to have 4 conferences.  They are as follows --


 

Conference A   Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks

Conference B Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets

Conference C Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs

Conference D Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals



In the seven team conferences, each team will play the other members of their respective conferences six times, three home and three away.  They will play the remaining teams in the NHL a total of twice, one home and one away. 


In the eight team conferences each team will play the other members of their conference five or six times on a rotating basis. They will then play the other teams in the NHL twice, one home and one away.



The playoffs will have a much different feel as well.  It will be very similar to the pre 1993 NHL;  The top four teams in each conference qualify for the postseason.  They will be seeded 1-4 based on points.  #1 will play #4 with home ice advantage, and #2 will play #3 with the same luxury.  


After the first round the winners will play for a chance to advance to the “final four”, with the higher seed enjoying a home ice advantage.


Sounds simple enough, right? Right?



Well, with every new implementation there are bound to be pros and cons.  This new alignment plan is no different.  It wouldn’t be an orange and black pack article without some opinion, so here it goes.


I like it. Hands down I do.  It hearkens back to the days when men were men and hooking was…well, it was never called.  This new alignment takes me back to when I was a kid and I rooted for the Wales conference to beat the Campbell conference in the All-Star game. 





Look up at the rafters next time you're at the Wells Fargo Center. See all those Patrick division banners?



Yeah, that’s what they were from.


Now as much as I would LOVE to see the conferences named the Patrick, Adams, Smythe, and Norris conferences, I just don’t see it happening. Then again, the NHL did give us the Jets back, so who knows? I think we can all agree, anything is better than Conferences A, B, C, and D. 


Anything.  


My guess? They go with some newer updated conference names. Maybe the Howe, Orr, Gretzky, and Lemieux conferences.  My opinion? Not sure how I would feel with the Flyers playing in the Mario Lemieux conference. But that is neither here nor there.



One thing is for absolute certain; this new alignment plan will galvanize the rivalries contained. The Flyers will play the Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, and Hurricanes 6 times a year, and then faceoff with one of them in the first and second rounds of the playoffs.  Talk about animosity building up.  This should bring about some very exciting conference playoffs.  Imagine facing the Rangers every year in the playoffs, it could conceivably happen.  As if we didn’t hate them enough already this just fuels the fire.  The other thing I like is we now have the opportunity to face every other team in the NHL at home.  It gives fans an opportunity to see some of the premier players in the NHL live and up close. 


On the flip side you will always have your drawbacks.  Some of the Flyers other rivals, i.e. the Bruins, Canadiens, Sabres, and Lightning will now only be faced twice a season as opposed to the four times now. Another complaint I have been hearing a lot is playing tougher opponents in the first round of the playoffs.  Think about it. If the playoffs from Conference D had the Rangers, Penguins, and Capitals, the Flyers would face one of them in the first round.  


Pretty tough.  


But I look at it this way, If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.  It makes the playoffs that much more exciting.  Another con for our Philly boys will be a slightly increased travel schedule.  Heading west will be a more common occurrence in the new NHL.  From what I have read from Gary Bettman, the travel will be accommodated with more focus on scheduling days between travel games.  So I don’t think it will factor into the play too much.  No, Vancouver, travel is NOT an excuse for no Cups ever. But I digress.



Overall, I think that this is a very exciting step for the NHL. It will give an “old school” flare to the new NHL.  Especially if the NHL decides to use the antique names for the conferences.  I, for one, hope the NHL decides to give the original fans, who have stuck by them through thick and thin, something to be excited about.  


The fact remains that this is radical for the NHL.  Nobody likes change at first.  Trust me when I say, that you will not be disappointed once this plan gets underway.  Oh, and don’t forget to start building up your hate for the Capitals and Hurricanes now.  They are a new addition to an already exciting division.  Let’s show them how we roll in the Atlantic. This ain’t the Southeast anymore. Get excited Flyers fans, some great hockey awaits, and this is only the beginning of a new chapter.


Until next time, this is T-March signing off. 


LET'S GO FLYERS!




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