NHL approves new, radical realignment

As has been reported, the NHL has approved a four-conference realignment plan and, tentatively, a new playoff plan for the upcoming season.

The basics are that every team will play a home-and-home against one another (so, that means that Wild fans will get to see Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and so on at least once a season), the playoffs will begin within the conferences, then the top four teams will square off in divisional playoffs.

Here are the Conferences:

The new conference alignment

On the surface, they’re a lot more geologically friendly. For example, Minnesota and Dallas no longer have to make frequent trips to the Mountain and Pacific time zones, while all teams in the East have to make at least one swing out to the left coast per season.

As a side bar, I’m not wild about this for Tampa and Florida. They lost any divisional rivalries they had aside from each other with this. I think it would have been better to bump Philly and Pittsburgh to Conference 3 and stick Tampa and Florida in Conference 4 where they would at least have existing rivalries.

That’s just splitting hairs, though.

The proposed playoff system, though I’m not all that wild about.

I don’t like the idea of a team with less points than another making the playoffs while the other team gets to go experience the joys of the golf course in April. I like the current race for the playoffs when its coming down to the wire and it also like the drama of the current playoffs that allow for your team to see more than just the same old same old in the first couple playoff rounds.

That being said, rivalries will build quite a bit quicker in this format, which makes for more entertaining series’ at the end of the day.

Under this format, here’s how the playoff picture would look right now:

Not much different, but different enough

So, basically, here’s how it would break down. Edmonton, who is currently out of the playoffs right now, would be in while St. Louis, who is in, would be out. Ottawa, who would be in right now, would be out of the playoffs in favor of the Capitals. Not much change, but it’s a downright shame for fans of St. Louis and Ottawa, both of whom have more points than their counterparts that would be taking their place in the post season.

Now, you may find yourself asking how scheduling would work. We were too. We’ll let NHL.com’s Dan Rosen explain that for you:

“In the seven-team conferences, teams would play six times — three home, three away. In the eight-team Conferences, teams would play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis; three teams would play each other six times and four teams would play each other five times. This process would reverse each season: An eight-team Conference member that plays an opponent six times in one season would play it five times the following season.”

So, there are pros and cons to this, like anything, but how does this affect the Wild?

Well, on the surface, it’s a win for Minnesota. No more having to head out West to face off against divisional opponents three times a year. That means less games on really late at night, which is a plus for the fans. Travel will be a bit easier too, though as Justin Bourne pointed out, that’s not really that big of a factor when you’re talking about the NHL.

So, from a logistical standpoint, it’s a win. From a fan’s standpoint, though, I’m not so sure.

All of those divisional rivalries that the Wild have spent the last ten years fostering? Gone by the wayside. The Wild won’t see Vancouver or Edmonton or Calgary more than twice a year unless the cards align in the playoffs. Now, you could argue that it makes those few meetings that much more of a powder keg – and for the first year or two, you might be right – but those rivalries that we, as Wild fans, cherish so much will slowly dissipate unless fostered in the playoffs.

That said, Wild fans still bitter about the Stars moving to Dallas will no doubt appreciate the opportunity for a great deal of Minnesota/Dallas playoff series’ in the future, and the Minnesota rivalries of old can be restarted, so there’s that at least.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to say whether this is going to be better or worse. Only time will tell for that. One thing’s for sure, though. No matter how you spin it, it’s going to be different.

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