Realignment: My Thoughts on the New Format


Unless you were hiding underneath a rock somewhere yesterday you probably heard that the proposal the NHL put forward to the Board of Governors was approved. While there’s still a few “i’s” to be dotted and “t’s” to be crossed, the NHL is going with a 4 conference layout, with 2 Western Conferences having 8 teams each and 2 Eastern Conferences having 7 teams each. The top four teams in each Conference will advance to the playoffs, with the Conference champs battling it out to see who goes to the Stanley Cup Finals. Its still unclear exactly how the Conference winners will be seeded but I would imagine it will be based on regular season records.

Let’s take a closer look at alignment, how it affects the Hawks and what I do/don’t like about the format.

The new conferences will look like this:

Conference A
Los Angeles
San Jose

Conference B
St. Louis

Conference C
Tampa Bay

Conference D
New Jersey
NY Islanders
NY Rangers

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this new format. Personally I would have stuck with the same format, just switched a few teams around to make the divisions more geographically friendly and make-up a more diverse schedule with fewer divisional games and more inter-conference games. But that’s just me. It all depends on what you want to see as a fan (more divisional games, more inter-conference games, different playoff format etc.)

There’s a few things I like about this format and a few things I don’t.

I don’t like…

The fact that the Hawks lose games with teams like Vancouver, San Jose, LA and even Anaheim. Those are great teams with lots of star power that always play great hockey. Plus we won’t see as much of the up and coming teams like Edmonton and Colorado, who should be strong teams in a few years and loaded with star power. So the Hawks lose out there.

The fact that the Hawks have to face 7 other teams 5 or 6 times a year instead of just 4 teams 6 times. I have a feeling that we’ll be saying “them again?” quite a bit in this new format.

The fact that the Eastern Conferences have less teams than the Western Conferences. Teams in the two eastern conferences essentially have a 57% chance of making the playoffs, teams in the western conferences have a 50% chance. How is that fair?

The fact that the best teams don’t necessarily make the playoffs. For exmaple, say the 5th and 6th place teams in Conference A have better records than the 3rd and 4th place teams in Conference B. In the current format, the best teams with the best records get in. The new format insulates weaker teams from the broader competition of the current format.

I do like…

The fact that the Hawks will see everyone at least twice. The East has a lot of starpower and we don’t get to enough of it here in the Western Conference. In this new format we’d get to see all that the East has to offer.

The fact that the Hawks get to keep the current rivalries with Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville and regain the rivalry with Minnesota. Plus they get to see lots of the Winnipeg Jets, which I’m excited for because I honestly haven’t seen them play since they played the Hawks and I have a feeling that Chevy will turn that team into something.

The fact that the playoffs will revert back to the old divisional format, which makes for really bloody hockey between heated rivals come spring.

The fact that the Stanley Cup Finals will be more representative of the two best teams in the league the two best teams in the league, not just the best of the West and the best of the East

Ultimately, the Hawks are not hugely affected by realignment Their travel schedule pretty much stays the same because the increased trips to the east make up for the fewer in trips to the Pacific coast. They gain games against top eastern teams at the expense of games against great western teams, which is good or bad depending on whether you’d rather see more of the best of the west or the best of the east. Some fans will like it, some won’t. They keep their current divisional rivalries and the playoff format will certainly add to those rivalries. Perhaps we’ll see a renewal in what has been a dwindling rivalry with Detroit.

What are your thoughts on realignment? How do you think it will effect the Hawks?

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