NHL Realignment Looks Like A Win For Wings, Fans
The NHL landscape will undergo its biggest shakeup in decades, scrapping the six division format for a four conference regional plan to be initiated in 2012-13. The proposal is still pending approval from the NHLPA, but would place the Red Wings in Conference B (fear not, conference names to come). You can view the conferences in the table below.
The realignment calls for each team to play one home and home series with every other NHL club. While this will create more travel for the current East Coast teams, clubs like Detroit will benefit by cutting their West Coast travel in half. Detroit general manager Ken Holland said, “From the Detroit Red Wings perspective, we like it.”
The Conferences, featuring two sets of seven and two sets of eight teams, will play the first two rounds of playoffs within their own conference. The four winners will move onto the semifinals. This is where the fans win, as rivalries within conferences should develop due to yearly playoff match ups.
The door has also been opened for further expansion, although that does not seem likely in the near future. The NHL has rebounded strongly since the season long lock out of 2004-05. Anyone seeking evidence of that can simply observe the salary cap has risen from 39M to 64.3M since the lockout. But the league still has struggling franchises, namely Phoenix who is still looking for a local owner.
The new alignment will allow for greater flexibility than any other option on the table. Shortly after Atlanta’s move to Winnipeg, many suggested placing the Jets in the West and swapping out either Colombus or Detroit to the Southeastern Division. However, this patchwork system would only work for the short term. “The simple one wasn’t as simple as it looked when you got done with it,” Bettman said.
We look forward to what this means not just for Detroit but the league. It should provide some fun debate in the offseason, and we look forward to the new NHL layout for next season.
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