Saturday Morning – Who's Playing Who Next Year?
A little "inside hockey" to start the weekend off. The National Hockey League formally approved a new realignment divisions and conferences this week. After the proposal was fine-tuned and then approved by the players' union, it was given the ok by the league Board of Governors (the owners) on Thursday and will go into effect immediately following the close of this season.
As we were talking last week, the main accomplishment was the moving Winnipeg to the Western Conference and Detroit and Columbus to the Eastern Conference. Another major change is reducing the number of divisions in each conference from three to two. A bit of a hang-up is that with just 30 teams in the league, the two Eastern divisions will have 8 teams each, and the Western divisions will have 7 teams. That causes a little bit of an imbalance when it comes to qualifying for the playoffs as well as the number of intra-divisional games played by each team. But they have it sorted out.
Here is the new alignment for the still-unnamed divisions:
The map graphic readily exposes the one big pimple on the layout, the two Florida teams are lumped into the most-northern division. They will spend the entire season flying over the arenas of their current rivals, logging in the heavy frequent-flyer miles. If they had asked me first, I would have moved the Islanders and Columbus up to the C division to make room for the Florida teams to remain more geographically situated.
The scheduling of games is improved with this layout, I think. Each team will play its divisional rivals at least 4 times, in some cases 5, during the season with a total of roughly 50 games withing their conference. The other 32 games will be against the teams from the other conference and here is what I really like about it: After 20 years they are returning to every team playing home-and-home with every other team in the league. The fans will now, once again, be able to see every team in the league play in their home arenas. That's great.
Qualifying for the playoffs is simply put, the top three teams in each division will go into the playoff round and the other two slots will be "wild cards" of the two remaining teams in the conference with the highest point totals.
Whew! Got all that? Thanks for your patience. We need to get this equipment checked out now, so let's get started while I refill the coffee pots. See you back in the day room in a little while. Remember to watch out for those Saturday shoppers out there.
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *