With the NHL Board Of Governors set to meet today at 3:30 p.m. PST, the topic of NHL realignment is at an absolute fervor on the internet.
The BOG face a very difficult and possibly contentious debate today as they must decide on whether to make the simple and -- quite frankly, easy -- swap of Winnipeg and Detroit or whether to go for absolute and complete change. The proposed 'radical' realignment plan calls for a shift not only of the current geographical alignment of the divisions but a complete change in conference alignment, season scheduling and postseason format.
See, it's not just as simple as changing a few teams like Minnesota, Dallas, Winnipeg and Detroit and still being able to keep the current divisional and playoff alignment. Instead, the NHL must put together a plan that not only appeases those teams in the West but also finds compromise with those teams in the East, who obviously feel there is nothing wrong with the way things currently are.
As the BOG gets set to apparently make a decision today, there is a lot of talk about the ramifications should the radical realignment actually pass. We actually passed along some apparently wrong information yesterday as well. After the jump, a look at all of the issues surrounding the realignment and what it might mean should the decision be made to completely change the current setup.
Yesterday when discussing the proposed alignment we labeled it as four "divisions", with two being in the East and two in the West. Apparently, that is not exactly right as there will -- supposedly -- no longer be two separate conferences with two divisions each. Instead the alignment will actually be four separate conferences, with the top four teams in each conference making the playoffs.
The first two rounds will be intra-conference (divisional rounds) and then the remaining for teams will be re-seeded. This means there's a chance we could see a Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers Stanley Cup Finals -- this also means the NHL's greatest nightmare could come true and the San Jose Sharks would face the Dallas Stars in the final as well. It also means that a team that finishes in 5th in one division with 98 points could in fact miss the postseason, while a team with 87 points in a crappy division makes it.
According to Greg Wyshynski, this isn't exactly the greatest thing for hockey and it raises some concern:
Had this been the format last season, the Los Angeles Kings would have missed the playoffs despite having more points than Chicago and Dallas. The same story would play out every year in this format: It's not as if a team falls short of the playoffs because of their record, it's that they're screwed by the divisional seeding.
The divisional playoff format has been romanticized to the point where we've forgotten its flaws: Inequity and predictability.
He also says that while having the first two rounds against divisional opponents builds rivalries, it also creates a stale atmosphere where the same teams play each other year after year. Is that a bad thing?
Mike Heika brings up perhaps the most contentious point of all -- the travel.
Also expected to be included in this plan is the fact every team plays every other team at least twice a season (home and away). That's what the NHL used to do, and what the NBA does right now. It's what pretty much everyone in the West wants.
Now, the problem is this creates a lot more travel for teams in the East. That takes a physical toll and also will cost a lot of money. All it takes is 11 teams in the East to disagree with this plan, and there will be a stalemate, so this will be a tricky negotiation.
This is what is being talked about the most. Added travel for teams in the East, because having to travel more than a state away for divisional games is so freaking horrible.
Dale Tallon, GM of the Florida Panthers, said that he's concerned with the proposed additional travel, because he wants his team rested and not wary from traveling for games more often. Of course, I'd feel sympathetic for him if the Panthers were facing an option of playing most road games two time zones away but they're not -- the added travel really isn't that bad in the big scheme of things.
This is going to be a good test to see just how selfish teams in the East are. They're sitting just fine right now and doing the simple Winnipeg for Detroit swap would be beneficial for their conference and they have no issues with the current scheduling or travel.
The issue is the disparity in travel between the East and the West and whether teams on the East coast would be willing to compromise. Yes, they'll be traveling a bit more often but it will significantly cut down on travel for the Western teams and create a bit more uniformity across the NHL. It seems the travel is really the issue at stake here although you wonder if the proposed changes to the playoff scheduling would be the big sticking point on getting a decision made.
There's talk that Gary Bettman usually doesn't present a plan unless he's certain he'll get it passed and he's done his homework here, trying to do his best to appease as many teams as possible. It's not going to be easy and there's uncertainty about whether the BOG will take a risk for the good of the NHL or whether the teams in the East will hold back progress.
We shall see -- and possibly find out tonight.