NHL Realignment Breakdown

After months of discussion, the NHL Board of Governors have come to an agreement on realignment. The NHL PA still has to approve of this, but as of now, there will be four conferences instead of two:

Conference 1: New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Carolina and Washington

Conference 2: Florida, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa and Boston.

Conference 3: Columbus, Detroit, Winnipeg, Nashville, Dallas, Minnesota, St. Louis and Chicago

Conference 4: Phoenix, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver, Colorado, Edmonton and Calgary

Here are some other facts about this realignment that will take place next season.

-Each team will play a home-and-home against every team that’s not in their conference. The rest of the remaining games will be played against teams in the same conference.

-The top 4 seeds in each conference will play each other in the playoffs (1 vs 4, 2 vs 3)

-The conference winners will be reseeded 1-4, so the Stanley Cup Finals will no longer be bound by East vs. West;  it will be possible for something like a Flyers-Sabres match-up to happen. However, this has yet to be completely finalized, per Darren Dreger of TSN

1. Re-alignment requires NHLPA approval. 2. Playoff format for 3rd rd and beyond still not finalized. GMs to determine.

So with all that being said, let’s run down the pros and cons.


-Better playoff odds. It’s a lot easier to be the 4th best team in a 7 or 8-team conference. All you have to do is build your team to routinely kick the snot of the other six teams and chances are, you’ll be very successful.

-New rivalries. I think fans will learn to really hate the new teams in their division with how often they play each other.

-To build off that point, old rivalries will be further enhanced. Bottomline, the regular season will be more interesting.

-The potential playoff match-ups that can happen on a regular basis. Ex: Sabres-Bruins, Rangers-Islanders, Canadiens-Bruins, Flyers-Penguins, etc.

-A more level playing-field in terms of travel.


Teams in conferences with 8 teams will have a built-in disadvantage in comparison with the teams in conferences with 7 teams with regard to making the playoffs. Contraction or expansion will be necessary to completely level the playing field in that regard. Until that happens, what I’d like to see happen to correct that problem a bit is to have each 8 team conference get one of the 7 team conferences as a cross-over partner. If the 5th place team in the 8-team conference has more points than the 4th place team in the corresponding 7 team conference, the 5th place team would take the place of the 4th.

-When you have your league setup this way, there is always the potential for there to be a terrible conference/division that sends a team or two to the playoffs that aren’t necessarily deserving. I’m not too mad about that though. You see that in football all the time, yet we all find a way to get over it every year.

-The fact that there is the potential for the two top teams in the league to meet in the 2nd round of the playoffs.

Two other cons that I’ve seen thrown out there are decreased parity and not getting to play hated teams as often. The reasons I chose not to list them are as follows:

-As long as there is a salary cap, there will be parity in the league. Realignment only changes things for the short-term. Bad teams now won’t be bad teams forever.

-Those teams will still play each other and I don’t foresee fans all of a sudden not hating those teams as much. Using myself as an example, I’m still going to hate Flyers with every fiber of my being, despite the Sabres potentially playing them only twice a year.

Overall, I really like the way this realignment is being setup. Fans will get to see every team twice. The teams in each conference will still play each other six times each like they do in the current format in each division. Divisional play will instill lots of hate that will last long-term, which can only drum up interest and entertainment values, not hurt them. Bottomline, the cons that come with this system are far outweighed by the pros.

Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of the conferences.

Conference 1:  This is just the Atlantic Division, plus Carolina and Washington. The Caps get to renew rivalries with teams like the Flyers and Rangers, along with getting to play against newer rivals like the Penguins more often. Obviously, the Atlantic Division teams all know each other pretty well already. Carolina’s the only odd-ball of the group, but they’re at least familiar with the Caps and they’ll have lots of opportunities to get acquainted with the other teams. In the short-term, the Canes and Isles have an uphill climb to say the least and the Pens, Flyers, and Rangers are setup to dominate for at least a year or two, but hey, all that’s required to get in the playoffs is to be better than three other teams, so you never know. As you’ve seen with teams like the Panthers and Wild, fortunes can change rather quickly in this league.

Conference 3: Here, we have the Central Division along with Winnipeg, Dallas, and Minnesota. I love the fact that the old-Northstars franchise will get to play the Wild more often. Meanwhile, the Jets get out of the hellish predicament they are in this season in terms of travel. As of now, this is a pretty competitive group of teams. Only the Jets and Blue Jackets are behind the curve at this point. Like I said earlier though, things can change on a dime. Detroit and Chicago seem like the only guarantees in this conference in terms of being playoff teams on a regular basis.

Conference 4: The Pacific and Northwest Divisions, minus Minnesota and Dallas make up this conference. It’s good to see Vancouver get to play the west coast teams more often. That’s how it should be. There is a lot of potential turnover in this conference from what I can tell. All of these teams are good or have a foundation in place to turn things around quickly. For instance, I can see Edmonton being the king of this conference in a few years with the young core they are developing.

Conference 2: Now we’re at the part that will really interest Sabres fans. Their conference is the Northeast Division, plus Tampa Bay and Florida. I think this works out great for the Panthers and Lighting. They’ll get more revenue from northern transplants and people who want to occasionally fly down from up north to catch their team play, along with some great weather. For the short-term, I think Buffalo, along with Boston will be a mainstay in the playoffs for this conference while the other teams duke it out to get the other two spots. Also, with the way the teams are now, Buffalo might be the toughest team here in terms of physicality with the exception of Boston.

However, Buffalo has a lot of size coming up to make themselves more comparable to the Bruins in that department and that will further set them apart from the other teams who already have to make up plenty of ground in that regard. When you look at the big picture,  Buffalo is set up to be a force in this conference and with Pegula’s resources at the team’s disposal, I don’t see them missing the playoffs often, if at all.

Also, as you might have inferred, the league hasn’t named the conferences yet. Therefore, I submit that the names should be Orr, Gretzky, Howe, and Richard. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comment box or you can tweet them at me @UBOpethian.

2 Responses to NHL Realignment Breakdown

  1. Pingback: For all you Caps fans.... - DCSportbikes.net

  2. Pingback: NHLPA Rejects 2012-2013 Realignment | Neon Tommy

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