Thursday, March 28, 2013

Realignment, Relocation, and Expansion

The NHL has recently passed a new realignment that will go into effect next season. The proposal would divide the league into four divisions and the top three teams from each division would make the playoffs and two wild-card teams from each conference. Here are the proposed divisions: 
The new playoff format is different, to say the least.
The top three teams from each division will make the playoffs and two wildcard teams from the conference will round out the top 8. The first round of the playoffs will be intra-conference. For example, in the yet-to-be-named far Western division (let’s call it the Pacific Division) if Calgary finishes first, San Jose second and Los Angeles third, all three teams will be guaranteed a playoff spot. The fourth and fifth place teams might make the playoffs if they have a better record than the fourth and fifth place teams in the other Western Conference division.
Now this is where it gets tricky. In the first round of the playoffs the #1 seed plays #4 and #2 plays #3. And the winners of these matchups will play each other and the winner of that series will play the winner of the other division.
To determine who are the #4 seeds, the top seed in the conference will play the bottom seed (#8 seed), and the second highest seed in the conference will play the second lowest (#7 seed) If only three teams from the Pacific make the playoffs, the extra wildcard team from the other division will join the division with only three teams.
If Chicago is a wildcard team with the worst record, and Calgary is the #1 seed in the Pacific with the top conference record, Calgary will play Chicago in the first round and #2 San Jose will play #3 Los Angeles. If Chicago and San Jose win their respective matchups they will play in the next round. If Chicago wins that matchup they will be the Pacific Division Champions. Although not in the Pacific division and no where near the Pacific Ocean, the Blackhawks would be the Pacific Division champions.
Personally I find this playoff format system a bit strange. Nothing was wrong with the old format where #1 played #8 regardless of division. With this new format the NHL could conceivably do the same format, but Bettman had different ideas and decided to complicate things a bit more for everyone.
Thanks Gary
An interesting part of this realignment is the 14 teams in the West and 16 in the East. It looks like Gary Bettman and the NHL are thinking expansion and are planning on adding two teams out west at some point in the future.
Is Seattle gearing up for an NHL team? Connor (aka Heartbreaker) will tell you all about Seattle's new arena deal in an attempt to attract an NBA franchise. They are the city that has been rumored the most about getting an NHL franchise.
Their were previous speculations about Toronto adding a second NHL team but this appears not to be the case given this realignment, unless another team from the East relocates to Toronto (Florida Panthers?) Even then there would be a discrepancy in the number of teams in the East and West. Where would the second team from the West go? Portland? Kansas City? Milwaukee? 
As much as the NHL hates to admit it, the Phoenix Coyotes are a failure. The team itself isn't a failure, because they don’t play bad hockey and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals last year after winning their first Pacific Division Title. But the Coyotes have been losing money ever sense they relocated from Winnipeg. So unless the temperatures start to plummet in Arizona and hockey becomes part of the Phoenix culture I wouldn't expect the Coyotes to start turning a profit in the near future. The Coyotes will not last in Phoenix. Phoenix is not a hockey market and I highly doubt it ever will be. The NHL can try all it wants to get a team to succeed there but from a business stand point that is nearly impossible. And that’s not the NHL's fault or anyone’s fault really. Sooner or later the NHL will have to cut its losses in Phoenix and allow the team to be relocated. Several attempts have been made into purchasing the Coyotes and relocating them into Canada but Bettman keeps blocking all relocation attempts insisting that anyone interested in purchasing the team must keep it in Phoenix

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