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NHL Realignment Proposal Makes ‘Geographic Sense’


Gary Bettman

Is Bettman finally getting something right with the new realignment proposal?

The National Hockey League announced their latest proposal for realignment this week and it has to have fans in Detroit and Columbus somewhat happy. The new system would create four divisions rather than the current six with two being in each conference. The top three teams in each of the four divisions would qualify for the playoffs with four other teams receiving wild-card bids. Those wild-cards would be the teams with the best record among the non-qualifying teams. In other words, one division could have five teams make the playoffs while the other in conference would just have three.

As is the case with any realignment, there are good and bad qualities for each. First of all, the Red Wings and Blue Jackets have to be ecstatic at the thought of significantly less travel time as they would be shifted from the Western Conference to the Eastern. Same would go for Winnipeg who would move from the Eastern Conference to the Western.

Both of those moves in my opinion are no-brainers and make plenty of sense. For Detroit, the move would also bring back rivalries with former ‘Original Six’ members Boston, Toronto and Montreal. The other real benefit is for the fans. No longer would the Red Wings be starting playoff hockey games at 10:30pm eastern time as they have for so many years.

Certainly that applies for Columbus and Winnipeg conversely as well.

There will most certainly be some hesitation about the playoff formatting as the proposal moves forward. Under the current plan, the top eight records in each conference advance to the playoffs. In the new proposal, it’s conceivable yet unlikely that one division could be extremely dominant over another which could force one or two really good teams to be left high and dry.

For example, let’s say in the Atlantic, New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh all have better records than the top team, let’s say Toronto, in the Central. According to the new rule, even though Toronto would have a lesser record than those teams in the Atlantic, they would still receive a two-seed and would draw the top wildcard team.

There’s probably no perfect way of doing it, but I think this realignment structure is definitely a step in the right direction both from a logistical and common sense point of view.


Erik Karlsson
Even without the Karlsson the Seantors are making a move in the Eastern Conference.

Teams on the Move… Montreal is atop the Eastern Conference following a 10-game stretch where they went 6-1-3… Ottawa has gotten over the fact that they’ll be without Erik Karlsson for the remainder of the season by winning five straight. They’ve been able to jump into the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference… It goes without saying that Chicago is still streaking as they have now reached 19 straight games with a point to open the season. The Blackhawks are 9-0-1 in their last ten… The Ducks are doing their best to hang with Chicago and went 8-2 over their last ten. Amazingly, even after that run, Anaheim is still eight points behind the Blackhawks in the Western Conference.

Games This Week

Ottawa at Boston – These two are tied with 26 points each and a head-to-head victory would go a long ways in a short season in terms of tie-breakers. The Bruins have won four straight while the Sens have won five in a row. Go with the home team and take Boston.

Pittsburgh at Montreal – The top two teams in the East get together in Quebec where the Penguins will be looking for consistency. They were hammered 6-4 in Florida and played poorly with penalties and bad play period. The Pens do have an 8-3 record on the road which is impressive and enough for me to take them in Montreal.

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