Tuesday, December 06, 2011

NHL Realignment

With the Atlanta Thrashers becoming the Winnipeg Jets, there had to be some sort of change in the alignment of the NHL. A team from Western Canada playing in the Southeastern Division was just wrong. And the solution wasn't simple. It's actually quite radical.

The NHL will go from a 2 Conference, 6 Division alignment into 4 Conferences. Two of them will have 8 teams, two will have 7. Here's how they'll look:

Conference A:
Anaheim, Colorado, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

Conference B:
Chicago, Dallas, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

Conference C:
Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Tampa Bay

Conference D:
Carolina, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington

The playoffs would also be radically rearranged. Each Conference would have 4 playoff teams, all playing each other. The final four would be the four Conference champions.

During the regular season, teams would play Conference rivals 5 to 6 times (5 times in the 8 team Conferences, 6 times in the 7 team Conferences) per season. And they'd play all other teams twice (one home, one away).

I have mixed feelings. The Bruins will still get to compete with rivals like Toronto, Buffalo, Montreal, and Ottawa. But Florida and Tampa Bay are grotesquely out of place. Hopefully the Panthers move to Quebec.

Also, the Bruins will play the Flyers and Rangers just as often as they play the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes. There's just something not right about that.

And the playoff format bugs me a bit. As thrilling as it is to see the Bruins and Canadiens meet in a series, it's sad that we won't see the Bruins face the Flyers or Capitals very often. And how long will the appeal of intradivisional playoff matchups last when we see them year after year after year?

I'd rather have an East and West division. Conferences A and B are clearly west and C and D are cleary east. Why not take the top 8 teams from each grouping, and keep the playoffs similar to the way they are now.

Ultimately, the NHL could use contraction, and needs to eliminate teams in non-hockey markets like Miami, Nashville, and Phoenix.

But on the bright side, the Bruins still get to play against their rivals in Canada and Western New York. So that's good news.

Beasts of the East

This game had playoff intensity with regular season officiating. Nevertheless, the Bruins made a statement last night that they are clearly the best team in the Eastern Conference.

To borrow something from Belichick and the Patriots, the Bruins scored because they took what the Penguins gave them. Campbell's goal was very dirty, Pouliot's came from a turnover, and Seguin's resulted from taking advantage of Pittsburgh's aggressive penalty killing.

Speaking of penalty killing, the Bruins entered this game with the 6th best PK unit (statistically) in the League. And mathematically speaking, they killed 5 of 5 penalties last night. But they spent over 3 minutes killing 5-on-3 penalties. That's something that the stats don't quite show. I'll take the Bruins' PK over any other in the NHL.

The Bruins scored because they took what Pittsburgh gave them. And Pittsburgh scored only once because the Bruins didn't give them much of anything. Tim Thomas made a season high 44 saves. Chara was Chara. Seidenberg was brilliant. Ference was good. Everyone did their job defensively. Krejci hit two posts.

This was a tight, tough game, determined by the slimmest of margins, and the Bruins were clearly better.

The B's are in Winnipeg tonight.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo