NHL realignment perfect for fans and rivals

NHL realignment perfect for fans and rivals

Late last night, the NHL's Board of Directors voted in to action a brand new NHL alignment.  The 30 teams will be divided into four (yet unnamed) 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 Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

The teams in Conferences A and B (the eight team conferences) will play either five or six times in a season on a rotating basis -- for a total of 38 inter-conference games.

The teams in Conferences C and D (the seven team conferences) will play six times -- three home, three away -- for a total of 36 inter-conference games.

Perhaps the best news is the fact that every team will play every other team twice a season...once at home, once on the road.  That means, every year, every Original Six team will be in the United Center.

For the playoffs, the top four teams in each conference make the playoffs, and the first two rounds would be "inter-conference" matchups.  Meaning, for example, that the Hawks (assuming they make the playoffs) are guaranteed at least one playoff series against a division rival.  This will make teams like Dallas, St. Louis, Winnipeg, and Nashville legitimate rivals.  Playoff series' breed hatred.  Look no further than Vancouver.

After those conference rounds have been settled, the four conference champs will meet in a final four.  How those are seeded are yet to be determined, but all signs point to regular season point totals as the seeding method.  So, theoretically, we could see a Blackhawks / Canucks Stanley Cup Final...or a Montreal / New York Rangers Cup Final.

There are a few concerns with the new system.  For instance, if a team is in a really strong conference, they may be left out, despite having a higher point total than a team in the top four in another conference.  Also, travel issues could exist in a semi-final round.  A Vancouver vs Tampa Bay series would be insane for the players involved, but the positives FAR outweigh the negatives here.

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