Fan Fuel: NHL realignment winners and losers

December 6, 2011, 1:47 PM

BY TREVOR SMART – FAN FUEL BLOGGER

On Monday night, the NHL has announced its plans for divisional realignment for next season.

Here’s a look at the winners and losers of the new four conference scheme.


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First of all, for reference, the four new conferences:

Conference A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Conference B: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Conference C: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Conference D: Carolina, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

Winners:

Minnesota – The Wild could never really establish lasting rivalries with the other Northwest Division teams. But the new format gives them actual geographical rivals, more American opponents, and bigger draws like Detroit and Chicago.

Washington – Like Minnesota, the Capitals are now in a division with truer geographic rivals. Facing Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and the New York teams six times a year each will draw more attention than playing Florida, Tampa Bay, or Carolina ever did.

Pacific Time Zone teams – For the obvious reason of travel. More game start times at 7:00, rather than 4:00, when many are still at work, will increase TV viewership.

Detroit and Columbus – They still don’t get to play the eastern teams like they desire (both are in the Eastern time zone), but travel is still significantly nicer than before.

Florida, Tampa Bay, and Phoenix – Being put into conferences with Canadian teams will mean a significant influx of revenue from “Snowbird” Canadian fans. Each Sunbelt team will see their new Canadian conference rivals for an extra game during the regular season. Plus, under the new intra-conference playoff system, there’s a greater chance of a playoff series against a Canadian team as well. For cash-strapped franchises, the financial support of thousands of Leafs, Habs, or Canucks fans could have a significant effect.

Quebec City – Oh hey, look, Conference C only has seven teams. Guess they’re going to need another one, eh?

The NHL marketing department – I mean, seriously, Crosby and Ovechkin playing six times a season, with a very high chance of a playoff matchup each and every year? The commercials basically write themselves.

Losers:

Vancouver and Chicago – One of the very best rivalries in the game today will suffer a setback with the new split. There will now be only two regular season games between the teams, and a decreased chance of a playoff meeting – under the new inter-conference playoff format, teams will not play outside their conference until the third round. After three (four?) straight years of amazing playoff series’, fans could miss out on many further matchups. (On the other hand, there’s also a chance they could now meet in the Stanley Cup Final instead. Oh baby…)

Carolina, New Jersey, and the NY Islanders – Stuck in a division with Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, and the surging New York Rangers. Enough said, I think.

Winnipeg – Although Jets fans are surely just happy to have a team back, not having a single other Canadian team in their conference is unfortunate. Minnesota and Chicago are good future rivals, but playing Columbus and Nashville six times a year instead of Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton will surely leave some Jets fans disappointed.

Conference A and B teams – Having an extra team per conference makes it that much more difficult to make the playoffs. Teams like Calgary and Columbus are especially in tough – rebuilding is hard enough as it is, but having to compete with an extra team does not make it any easier.

Anti-expansionist fans – You just know that expansion to 32 teams – to create an equal eight teams per conference – is on the agenda now, if it wasn’t before. Get ready to welcome Kansas City, Houston, or Las Vegas

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