New NHL Re-alignment is Great for TV, Not for Every Team

Starting next season Crosby and Ovechkin will play in the same division, while the Red Wings move to the Eastern Confernece. Both of these moves should please NBC.

Starting next season Crosby and Ovechkin will play in the same division, while the Red Wings move to the Eastern Confernece. Both of these moves should please NBC.

It’s kind of ironic that on the year Major League Baseball breaks from all tradition to have balance between the American League and National League, that the NHL is flipping the exact opposite way to have unbalanced conferences after almost twenty years of balance. It was in fact in the lockout shortened 1994-95 season that the NHL last had unbalance, with two more teams in the Western Conference. Well I guess what is old is now new again. The Pacific Division remains unchanged from that season, aside from adding the Coyotes (who played in Winnipeg at the time). The Midwest now has four of the six teams it once had, losing Toronto and Detroit while adding Colorado (who played in Quebec at the time) and the expansion teams in Minnesota and Nashville. The Eastern Conference has a bit more of a change, with the Florida teams flipping from the Atlantic to the new Central (once called the Northeast). The Atlantic replaces them with expansion Columbus, as well as Pittsburgh and Carolina, who were once in the Northeast. Only have of the Central were Northeast members in 1994-95.

Let’s start with what I like about this alignment. It actually makes a lot of sense. The Pacifc and Midwest are close to perfect. Colorado fits better with rivals Dallas and Minnesota than with the Pacific teams. The Central, while horribly named considering all teams are in the Eastern Timezone and three are in states that border the ocean, has four of the Original Six. It also means that those four, plus Ottawa, will travel to Florida more than they do now, which should help with attendance a bit. Adding Columbus to the Atlantic also makes sense considering they are struggling mightily in the Central. Now Crosby and Ovechkin will come to Ohio multiple times a year, instead of just once each.

The only thing I would consider changing is Detroit. They fit best in the Midwest with rivals like Chicago, Colorado and St. Louis. Moving them back there would also balance the conferences. I think the only reason they got moved to the East is because the NHL knew they couldn’t get away with switching Columbus, but not Detroit, who have always wanted to make the move since Toronto did in the mid-1990s.

It is also interesting how this affects television, on both sides of the border. In Canada it means the Jets will play their western Canadian rivals more often. Even divisional games in Denver could anchor CBC’s doubleheader some weeks. It also entirely gets rid of 6pm CT divisional games. All Jets divisional games should start between 7 and 8 CT now. It also means that CBC will get to show the Red Wings, a team with a fair following in Canada, more often in the early game of the HNIC doubleheader now.

And it is the Red Wings that are the most interesting team in all of this. They were, and still are, the gateway for Western-based teams to appear on national TV in America. The Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champions, are on NBC’s networks eight times this season. Three of those games are against the Red Wings (three others against Chicago, if you were wondering). Phoenix is on three times, once against Detroit. Of the Pacific Division’s 12 games on NBC’s networks this year, one-third are against Detroit. Throw Colorado in the mix and you have another. The good news for the Avalanche is their four other NBC SN games come against their new division rivals.

As for the playoffs, the chances of an all-Canadian first round series are a lot higher than under the current system. With the wildcard even a Jets vs. Oilers/Canucks/Flames series is possible in the first round. I’m glad the NHL kept the divisional format for the first and second round of the playoffs, while also keeping conferences. I also like the wildcard. It means Jets-Oilers or Bruins-Rangers are still possible.

I earlier mentioned the problem of the division names, in particular the Central. I think now is a great time to bring back the classic division names: Adams (new Central), Patrick (Atlantic), Norris (Midwest) and Smythe (Pacific). Those were uniquely hockey. Or come up with new names based on the past 50 years. They could have Gretzky (Pacific); Orr (Atlantic); Howe, or your pick of any number of Canadiens players (new Central); and Hull (Midwest, Bobby played for Chicago and Brett for St. Louis and Dallas). These names made the NHL different from the NBA and it is time for a return to them.

What’s everyone else think of the new re-alignment and potential TV ramifications? I know there are those who hate it as much as I love it.

Who Broke It… As an aside, to bring media back into this, the way this story broke was quite interesting. Elliotte Friedman was the first to break the new format on Hockey Night in Canada‘s Hotstove Saturday. When TSN did Insider Trading on Tuesday they went with the generic “this is already out there” instead of crediting Friedman.

Then there is the ESPN and TSN stories on it, which are similar, but not. ESPN’s, written by Pierre Lebrun, breaks the news of a memo sent to the NHL’s 30 teams, while crediting Friedman as breaking the story. TSN’s article, written by “TSN.ca staff” doesn’t mention Friedman or Lebrun at all. In fact at first it said the memo was “obtained by ESPN”, before later becoming “obtained by TSN”. Lebrun works for ESPN (primarily as a writer) and TSN (primarily on television). ESPN owns 20% of TSN. The TSN story should have simply credited Lebrun, a name associated with the network anyway, in my opinion.

24 thoughts on “New NHL Re-alignment is Great for TV, Not for Every Team

  1. My initial thought was that the Wings will be on TV significantly more in Ontario, between the games on RDS, Sportsnet, TSN, and CBC, so much so that I wouldn’t have to get Centre Ice…oh, who am I kidding. I’ll still get it! I like the idea of ditching the directional names. Central makes no sense. Also, Columbus losing Detroit but gaining Pittsburgh as a division rival is a wash as far as ticket sales.

  2. People that say just swap Nashville and Winnipeg don’t get that both Detroit and Columbus have wanted out of the west for years.

  3. I like the new divisional alignment. There are only two problems with it in my opinion: 1) Naming what’s known now as the Northeast division the Central division. That is beyond messed up. Hopefully the NHL will fix this and call it the Northeast division once again. 2) Not too sure what I think of the wild card format. Would it be a one game playoff, a best of five or seven series or something like that? At least the Stanley Cup will continue to be played between the Eastern Conference Champion and the Western Conference Champion so all is well there. Classic division names should be brought back. Same with classic conference names. With the Jets moving to the Western Conference, another thing to consider is that when they have home games against the Flames, Oilers or Canucks and it’s happening on a Saturday night, they might be the second game of the HNIC doubleheader. Split doubleheaders on HNIC at 10 pm et during the regular season (maybe up to five of them) is something that I would like to see once again.

    • Northeast doesn’t make sense either considering it has Tampa and Florida.

      The wildcard format simply means that the top 3 division teams make the playoffs, and then the next 2 in each conference, regardless of division. There are no “wild card games”, just “wild card slots”, like the NFL.

      I don’t think the Jets will play 9 local starts at home, personally.

      • Another thing that I just thought of: let’s say that the Coyotes relocate to Quebec City. Between Columbus & Detroit, which team do you think would be more likely to move back into the Western Conference? If it’s Columbus that gets moved, a division consisting of Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Detroit, one of either Tampa Bay or Florida and Quebec City, then naming this division the Central sounds even dumber.

        Before the lockout wiped out the original schedule for this year, the Jets were going to play the Canucks at home on the Hockey Day In Canada nightcap.

        Thank You for the clarification regarding the wildcard format. If the fourth & fifth place teams in let’s say the Midwest division have more points than that of the fourth place team in the Pacific division, then it’s only fair that the fourth & fifth place teams in the Midwest division have a chance to be in the playoffs.

  4. “The only thing I would consider changing is Detroit. They fit best in the Midwest with rivals like Chicago, Colorado and St. Louis. Moving them back there would also balance the conferences.”

    But there won’t be two conferences anymore, there will be four. So, the Midwest and Pacific won’t have any closer ties than the Midwest and the Central. Each team will play a set number of games within its own conference, and they’ll play each out of conference team twice. If that’s what they go with, there is no particular reason they need to have 15 and 15. The old conferences will quickly become irrelevant.

  5. As a Red Wings fan living in Toronto, I’m more than ecstatic for this change.

    Not only can I see them at the ACC each time they’re in town, but I can finally road trip to Buffalo, Montreal and Ottawa instead of always going back & forth to Detroit, as a majority of their opponents are too far away.

  6. There is something wrong with breaking up the Red Wings and Blackhawks rivalry as well as the Blues and Red Wings. I don’t like it and having unbalanced conferences is wrong. The wild card idea is not bad but instead just get rid of the divisions and do top 8 from each conference. The wild card will still have the problem of Pacific and Central teams having playoff games start at 9:30 Central or 5:00 Pacific.

  7. Colorado fits better with the Pacific teams and the travel is less with those rivals. The Rockies of MLB play in a division made up of Pacific teams. The Nuggets of the NBA and the NFL Broncos play with Pacific and Central teams in a three timezone division. The Florida teams should be in the Atlantic with Columbus and Carolina in the Central.

    • The Florida teasm in the Central makes sense in part due to the massive amount of snow birds that will go and see Toronto,Montreal,Boston,Detroit.

      • You’re right about the snowbirds from those cities but, there are a tonne of those from the New York area, Philly, Pittsburgh, and Washington.

        • New York etc area snow brids while to a degree will go to the games but as a rule its not the massive amount Toronto and Montreal brings ou.

    • But Colorado has real rivals in Minnesota and Dallas. Not so much in the Pacific. i don’t think other sports should be used as a comparison since NFL only has six teams in MT/PT and in the NBA the Nuggets are in the same division a Minnesota, but not the California teams.

      • The Avs and or Colorado have real rivals in Minn and Dallas? No way.

        • More so than any Pacific DIvision team. The Avs and Stars had some good playoff series back around 10 years ago. The Avs and WIld have been the 2 only 2 US members of the NW divsion, so they have a natural rivalry. They’re my 2nd favourite team. I’d consider those rivalries way bigger than EDM, VAN or CGY (or the California teams).

  8. I get your point about the Avs and Stars but not more so than Pacific teams. The Avs and Sharks also had some good playoff series. The Avs have played the Sharks and Stars 4 times each in the playoffs. The Kings and Avs have played each other twice and those were terrific 7 game series. The Avs and Wild do not have a rivalry at all despite playing each other once in the playoffs. The Wild consider the Canucks as their #1 rival but the Canucks do not.

  9. Here is how it should have been done,and I don’t care what Bruins-Canadiens fans say or Pens-Flyers(who by the way are so far away from each other too),if you break up the Wings-Hawks,you can break up anything else.The Penguins as I recall are in Pittsburgh,and they are closer to Detroit,Buffalo,and Columbus,than they are to anybody that is in their division now,and that includes Philly.But I kept them together still in my realignment.I didn’t know Pittsburgh was so close to New York either,lol.Anyway this is the best way to do this.

    Eastern Conference

    North Division
    Detroit
    Toronto
    Pittsburgh
    Columbus
    Buffalo
    Philadelphia
    Montreal
    Ottawa

    East Division
    Boston
    New York
    New York
    New Jersey
    Washington
    Carolina
    Tampa Bay
    Florida

    Western Conference

    Midwest Division
    Chicago
    St.Louis
    Minnesota
    Nashville
    Winnipeg
    Dallas
    Colorado

    West Division
    Los Angeles
    Anaheim
    San Jose
    Vancouver
    Edmonton
    Calgary
    Phoenix

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