NHL Realignment Approved

Jonathan Willis
December 05 2011 10:02PM

The NHL announced last night that its Board of Governors were able to come to an agreement on a realignment of the league, one that will abolish the current East/West system and instead create four different conferences.

The four new conferences are as follow:

  • Conference A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
  • Conference B: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
  • Conference C: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
  • Conference D: Carolina, Long Island, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

Under the new system, every team in the league will play a home-and-home against every other team, with the rest of the games coming against division rivals. Playoff games will be arranged by conference, with the fourth seed playing the first seed, and the second seed matching up against the third-place team. It’s still not clear how conference finalists will be seeded after the conference playoffs are over.

There’s a mixed bag of pros and cons here. The Western teams – especially clubs like Columbus, Detroit and Nashville – will have a more favourable schedule travel-wise, but pay for it with a reduced chance of making the playoffs. Instead of eight of 15 teams making the playoffs, eight of 16 will be in under the new system. For the Eastern teams, the trade-off is different – they’ll actually be travelling more to the far West, playing in each city at least once per season under the new rules, but their playoff odds get better, as eight of 14 teams will be in the post-season.

That competitive imbalance is bound to raise eyebrows going forward. Last season, Vancouver finished first in the league, San Jose fifth, Anaheim ninth, Phoenix 11th and Los Angeles 12th in the NHL. Had the new playoff seeding been in effect last season, one of them would have missed the playoffs. Despite the new schedule, that sort of thing isn’t going to go away – some above average teams will be missing the playoffs while some poor teams will make the post-season.

The bottom line, for teams like Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver is that they’ll spend less money travelling, but that they’ll face a more difficult road to the playoffs every year – and once they’ve made the playoffs, they’ll probably play against higher-quality teams. The news is especially bad for Winnipeg – at least the other three clubs can hope that Phoenix relocates somewhere northeast in the near future.

For Toronto, the news is great for fans and less so for ownership. The team will have to pay a little more for travel, but each year they could conceivably be a below-average team and still make the post-season.

It’s not fair or equitable, but it was probably inevitable that this sort of system came about. Certain Western Conference teams were paying a heavy price in travel under the old setup, and to even that out they had to offer some kind of carrot to the Eastern Conference clubs – a carrot that seems to have come in the form of a more favourable playoff schedule.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Al
December 05 2011, 10:12PM
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I guess i'll be the fist...

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#2 Oilcruzer
December 05 2011, 10:45PM
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Hmm, the fix is in.

So, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa gets 4 chances out of 7 to make the playoffs?

Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, by being in 8 team conferences, get a 50% chance.

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#3 the admiral
December 05 2011, 11:00PM
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Now if the nhl is smart, they will realize fans love the history of the game. and will go back to the old school division names.

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#4 book¡e
December 06 2011, 09:06AM
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RossCreekNation wrote:

SMYTHE CONFERENCE: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

CAMPBELL CONFERENCE: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

WALES CONFERENCE: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto

PATRICK CONFERENCE: Carolina, Long Island, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

DO IT!!

(Norris & Adams already have trophy's)

There is no E at the end of Smyth

94!

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#5 SmellOfVictory
December 05 2011, 10:16PM
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Eeeeeeeeugh. Why couldn't they have done three equal conferences instead of four inequal ones?

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#6 Robert Cleave
December 05 2011, 10:33PM
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Travel was certainly the one unifying factor for the Western teams, but one of the other primary concerns for ownership in Dallas, Minnesota, Detroit and Columbus was the abundance of late TV start times that they faced for big chunks of their road schedule. Columbus and Detroit were faced with playing as many as 10 road games a year from 10 ET onward, and Dallas was particularly vocal about having to play their divisional road games at 9 or 9:30 CT.

Those start times might not seem like a big deal in hockey-infested places in Canada, because we'll watch the game pretty much whenever, but it was a major issue for the US clubs. Even Winnipeg's owners had mentioned this matter as something that concerned them to a degree, so I suspect that several Western teams might have been trying to balance competitive concerns, travel headaches and media issues when they agreed to accept a system that put them in a less attractive situation for playoff qualification.

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#7 book¡e
December 05 2011, 11:02PM
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I don't see why they couldn't have gone to Four Conferences with two divisions each with teams ranked 1-15 in each conference and the top 8 making the playoffs. It would be something if the 12th overall team didn't make the playoffs and the 20th overall team did (which is quite possible under this set of rules).

sensnonical - that is what this is.

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#8 John Chambers
December 05 2011, 11:03PM
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Hmm, very little margin for error for Calgary or Edmonton to make the playoffs.

Assuming San Jose and Vancouver stay strong for a while and Los Angeles is on the way up, you're going to have to get your licks in on Phoenix and Anaheim.

Could be worse, though. Given the re-alignment Carolina and the NY Islanders migth not make the post season for another decade.

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#9 BackEastOiler
December 05 2011, 11:26PM
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I like the home and home provision of the plan - it was somewhat silly that a Stanley Cup Champion could become a Stanley Cup Champion without having played every team in the league at least once. Now they'll play at least twice, in a way legitimatising the victory in the end.

As for the Oilers, Flames and other teams in the Division, it will be nice to have teams building to beat each other, again. Back in the 80s the Flames ALWAYS built to beat the Oilers - it worked once. The result was that intense sort of rivalry that spilled over into the streets and made both teams better. I, for one, am looking forward to that sort of emotion, again ...

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#10 RossCreekNation
December 05 2011, 11:55PM
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SMYTHE CONFERENCE: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

CAMPBELL CONFERENCE: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

WALES CONFERENCE: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto

PATRICK CONFERENCE: Carolina, Long Island, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

DO IT!!

(Norris & Adams already have trophy's)

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#11 Lofty
December 06 2011, 05:42AM
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Detroit is gone? Christmas has come early this year!

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#12 stevezie
December 06 2011, 07:34AM
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I love the home and homes with every team, but am pretty sure we'll just get sick of our conference "rivals" before the season is over.

Remember when the league boosted inter-conference to cut costs and boost "rivalries"? It got boring to see Calgary, not progressively more exciting.

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#13 Milli
December 06 2011, 08:10AM
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Amatuer, silly, stupid, I don't know what to say. The east there are 7 team div's and the west they are 8? WTF? I cannot ever see the NFL agreeing to something like this. Phonex must be moving east, it is the only logical explanation.

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#14 Archaeologuy
December 06 2011, 08:33AM
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The thing about the competitive balance of the conferences is that teams fluctuate all the time in how good they are. Teams near the bottom rise, teams near the top fall. Teams like the Oilers or the Flames might get crushed for a couple seasons, but a few seasons of that and the lottery picks start adding up. Things will change.

This could be exciting, and it could really breed the hate that has been missing in most "rivalries".

I mean, how big of a rivalry is Edmonton vs Calgary when the Captain of the Oilers can take an illegal crosscheck that causes him to be writhing in pain on the ice and the team doesnt even want to get payback?

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#15 Spydyr
December 06 2011, 08:38AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

The thing about the competitive balance of the conferences is that teams fluctuate all the time in how good they are. Teams near the bottom rise, teams near the top fall. Teams like the Oilers or the Flames might get crushed for a couple seasons, but a few seasons of that and the lottery picks start adding up. Things will change.

This could be exciting, and it could really breed the hate that has been missing in most "rivalries".

I mean, how big of a rivalry is Edmonton vs Calgary when the Captain of the Oilers can take an illegal crosscheck that causes him to be writhing in pain on the ice and the team doesnt even want to get payback?

@ Archaeologuy

It seems that under Renny it is frowned upon to take a penalty protecting your teammates.Either that or the team has a bunch of wimps on it.

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#16 Archaeologuy
December 06 2011, 09:07AM
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@Spydyr

Yeah, I thought the motto was "Relentless for eachother" or some crap like that.

I guess it's actually "Relentless for eachother unless something bad happens, then just go ahead and relent, it's OK."

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#17 RossCreekNation
December 06 2011, 10:59AM
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PEOPLE:

THERE IS NO MORE EASTERN CONFERENCE & WESTERN CONFERENCE.

THERE IS NO NEED TO TALK OF A 16/14 SPLIT OR A 15/15 SPLIT.

THERE ARE 4 CONFERENCES. PERIOD. THAT'S WHY THEY CALLED THEM CONFERENCES, NOT DIVISIONS.

EACH OF THE 4 CONFERENCES ARE INDEPENDENT OF ONE ANOTHER.

HOW MANY TIMES MUST THIS BE SAID?!?!?!?!

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#18 Al
December 05 2011, 10:13PM
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Does this mean Edmonton has a better shot at meeting calgary or vancouver in the playoffs? I', liking that if it happens.

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#19 Fatboys796
December 05 2011, 10:20PM
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You bet, it's going to be a beauty!! And is it possible for a cup final potentially with Calgary for Vancouver? If so........beauty!!!!!

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#20 Tonelli's Stache
December 05 2011, 10:21PM
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I like the fact that the league is stepping away from the NBA model Gary brought with him. Nasty divisional playoff series are back.

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#21 Gerta Rauss
December 05 2011, 10:24PM
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The league may have left themselves a little wiggle room wrt the Phoenix situation-if they pick up stakes and move to Quebec or Ontario then the balance of 15 teams per side will be restored.

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#22 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
December 05 2011, 10:27PM
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I`m alright with it. It`s completely unfair from a competitive standpoint, and will make the NHL a joke amongst North American sports leagues in that regard, but Phoenix will move to the East before this new system comes into play anyways. That means the three Western Canadian teams will reside in a seven-team conference. From a selfish standpoint it`s awesome. Furthermore, if a higher probability of making the playoffs was the carrot dangled to the East, were they too dumb to realize that Phoenix would end up in their timezone in the near future anyways!!! LOL

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#23 nickc
December 05 2011, 10:34PM
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i see some of you saying that phoenix will move east but what if they just move to seattle instead... that could evolve into some type of rivalry

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#24 If Only HIs Name Was Olli Postandin
December 05 2011, 10:39PM
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Actually, then again those dicks back East may just lump Winnepeg in Conference A, thereby creating an eight-team conference again. The Jets would then have the most brutal schedule in the league. Ouch, if the climate makes Winnepeg a less than favorable destination for UFA`s, the travel issue is really gonna dissuade them from signing in the Peg if they are moved again.

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#25 VK63
December 05 2011, 10:41PM
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~and Alberta ticket scalpers rejoice~

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#26 Gerta Rauss
December 05 2011, 10:45PM
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Laforge has comments up at the Oilers website-he mentions the Phoenix situation and also says that nothing is confirmed yet-this still has to be approved formally and even then there is no guarantee this is approved for the 12/13 season.

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#27 Al Davis
December 05 2011, 11:10PM
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I love this. Divisional games mean something once again. More of a chance of playing the dirty Flames and Canucks in the playoffs.

Phoenix will be gone before this is all done too.

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#28 DrDave
December 05 2011, 11:14PM
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Any chance of a CFL style cross over, if the 5th place team in a given conference finishes higher than the 4th place team in another can that team cross over and take its playoff spot? Otherwise we'll have teams missing the playoffs with more points than some teams making it....

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#29 Vintage Flame
December 05 2011, 11:16PM
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I'm sure the inequity of East and West get evened out when Phoenix is moved to Quebec City?

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#30 Al Davis
December 05 2011, 11:20PM
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Vintage Flame wrote:

I'm sure the inequity of East and West get evened out when Phoenix is moved to Quebec City?

Pretty much. If you listen to Bettman at the press conference it's comical really. "It allows us greater flexibility... Not that we're planning on moving anyone."

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#31 Vintage Flame
December 05 2011, 11:22PM
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Al Davis wrote:

Pretty much. If you listen to Bettman at the press conference it's comical really. "It allows us greater flexibility... Not that we're planning on moving anyone."

Man Bettman sounds like a bad Seinfeld skit..

Not that there's anything wrong with that..

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#32 Krafty
December 05 2011, 11:30PM
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Why isn't anybody talking about Florida and Tampa and how they got royally screwed for travel, being In the same conference as the Canadian teams and ones on the border? How the hell did the NHL approve that????

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#33 RossCreekNation
December 05 2011, 11:44PM
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Gerta Rauss wrote:

The league may have left themselves a little wiggle room wrt the Phoenix situation-if they pick up stakes and move to Quebec or Ontario then the balance of 15 teams per side will be restored.

There is no need to balance 15 teams per side, as there aren't any sides anymore.

There are 4 conferences. Period. Not an Eastern & Western Conference with 2 divisions/conferences in each. 4 conferences completely independent of one another.

Flames/Oilers fans now have just as much interest in Buffalo or Carolina as they do in St. Louis or Detroit (as far as playoff implications).

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#34 RossCreekNation
December 05 2011, 11:51PM
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Krafty wrote:

Why isn't anybody talking about Florida and Tampa and how they got royally screwed for travel, being In the same conference as the Canadian teams and ones on the border? How the hell did the NHL approve that????

Florida & Tampa likely approved that because it means Leafs/Habs fans buying more tickets.

#snowbirds

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#35 Eulers
December 06 2011, 12:16AM
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Players in Conference D can get their mom to drive them to the divisional games! Heck! Half of them can just take public transit!

The Oil's playoff hopes grow dimmer with this realignment. Hopefully, what doesn't kill us will make us stronger.

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#36 Chris
December 06 2011, 12:46AM
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I think they should have put together a South Division: Carolina, Tampa, Florida, Nashville, Dallas, St. Louis.

The way it works under the approved scheme, the travel costs will be a lot for Florida & Tampa. Constantly winging it to Canada.

They should call that division the Snowbird division. Florida and Tampa will get 12-16 big home crowds with Snowbirds cheering for their Canadian home teams. That leaves only 25 *real* home games for them. (That is, once the mirage in the desert makes its cross-continent journey to Le Colisee.)

Maybe all those Canadian Snowbirds will be a big boost for the NHL in the Sunshine State.

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#37 Chris
December 06 2011, 12:52AM
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@Chris

Oops. Need a 7th. Columbus makes the most sense geographically, given the Caps would want to stay close to home.

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#38 andrewmk20
December 06 2011, 12:58AM
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@nickc

The NBA didn't work in Seattle. What makes you think that the NHL will work when the Seahawks and Mariners are the kings there?

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#39 RossCreekNation
December 06 2011, 01:11AM
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As for the actual conferences, I'd have them set up slightly different.

To me, Kansas City, although not the most desirable place for relocation, is probably the easiest in terms of being ready ASAP. So if we re-locate Phoenix to KC, they'd move out of "Conference A" and into "Conference B" with the rest of the CST teams. In order to accomplish this, I'd move Columbus in to a conference with natural rival Pittsburgh. Now I'm not sure about the whole "snowbird" scenario, but I'd assume the 2 Florida teams were in favor of it. However, if you swapped Tampa & Florida with Pittsburgh & Philadeplhia (and Columbus), things would seem to make more sense. You could then potentially even move Detroit with the NY teams.

Conference A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver (Exp. Seattle)

Conference B: Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg (Exp. Toronto2)

Conference C: Boston, Buffalo, Columbus, Montreal, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto

Conference D: Carolina, Detroit, Florida, Long Island, New Jersey, New York, Tampa Bay, Washington

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#40 G. McRae
December 06 2011, 01:38AM
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Krafty wrote:

Why isn't anybody talking about Florida and Tampa and how they got royally screwed for travel, being In the same conference as the Canadian teams and ones on the border? How the hell did the NHL approve that????

Because they are not getting screwed. A building close to being full of Snowbirds is better than what they draw against teams like Nashville and Columbus. I saw a Montreal game down there last seaon and it was ~80% full (of Habs fans). One month later, I saw a Columbus game and you could have moved every body into the lower bowl and still had room for more. I talked to some fans about that and they say the games against Montreal, Toronto, Boston, and the NY teams always have twice the number of people than any other game. Just think of Canuck Nation east coast style.

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#41 knee deep in it
December 06 2011, 05:54AM
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it is a little early but, how does this schedule improve our travel situation? We go from playing 18 games vs the east to playing 28 games.

We play two less games vs the easiest teams to get to (Van, Cal,Minny, and Colorado)

I can see how this makes it tougher for eastern teams and maybe that is the balance they were looking for, but it doesn't make it easier for us.

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#42 pan0ramic
December 06 2011, 07:09AM
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No more Minnesota or Dallas!!! HOORAY

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#43 michael
December 06 2011, 07:26AM
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Smell that? Thats the smell of Money! Big money. The US television market just got a major boost from realignment. Versus and NBC must be tickled pink. Bettman is no dummy. Assuming the debacle that is the Pheonix Coyotes is resolved this coming off season. We probably will see a team in either back in Quebec City,Hartford or in Kansas City. There are many hockey markets being underserved in terms of having an NHL franchise. This realignment opens the door for further expansion into the US and Canada.

We think of Hamilton and Quebec City. Hartford, KC, Seattle, Cleveland, and OK City are all on the NHL's wish list. There was no way that the NHL could expand under the current format.Now on the other hand expansion is a realistic possibility. A team wants in. Put them where thier time zone is.

People are forgetting that therr is another team moving on the near horizon. The NY Islanders are dead in the water. No to the arena deal meant that Wang and company will be out of Long Island as soon as thier lease is done. Or sooner.Whether they stay in the lucrative NY market that remains to be seen.

Overall the realignment is a booon not only to the "ticket scalpers" but to to all the fans of the NHL. We are gauranteed to see the Leafs,the Canadians, and the Senators atleast once a year. Before we got to see them once every 3 years if we were lucky. That may be short term if the league expands but as of right now we'll see the rest of the teams atleast once next season. I like that.

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#44 the-wolf
December 06 2011, 07:33AM
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I’m fine with everything except that 1 less west team makes it and 1 more east team makes it. I don’t get it at all. How is that remotely fair? Just because the east has to travel more? Man, what a bunch of pushovers. 8 out of 16 vs 8 out of 14? No idea how that’s equitable. The Flames will never make the playoffs now.

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#45 Spydyr
December 06 2011, 07:58AM
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With the unbalanced divisions the only fair way to set up playoffs is to have the top three teams in each division make the playoffs.The missing two team from each conference should be wild card. That makes it even for everyone.

The playoffs within the division sucks.The old battle of Alberta during the glory days took place in the early rounds.

Teams should be seeded one to eight in their conference.

The best part no more Wild in our division And home to home with every team.

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#46 the-wolf
December 06 2011, 08:12AM
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My dream scenario:

- contract by 4 teams (26 team league)

- no conferences or divisions

- every team plays every other team equally in a best of 3 (home ice switches each year)

- 75 game season (25 opponents x3 games each)

- playoffs are seeded 1 vs 16

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#47 justDOit
December 06 2011, 08:12AM
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pan0ramic wrote:

No more Minnesota or Dallas!!! HOORAY

And fewer NAS and CBJ games!

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#48 Monaertchi
December 06 2011, 08:20AM
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Spydyr wrote:

With the unbalanced divisions the only fair way to set up playoffs is to have the top three teams in each division make the playoffs.The missing two team from each conference should be wild card. That makes it even for everyone.

The playoffs within the division sucks.The old battle of Alberta during the glory days took place in the early rounds.

Teams should be seeded one to eight in their conference.

The best part no more Wild in our division And home to home with every team.

There are no divisions in this plan. The top 4 teams in each conference play against themselves (A1 vs A4 and A2 vs A3 -- B1 vs B4 and B2 vs B3, etc...). After that, apparently there is no plan for the remaining 8 teams.

It's a smart plan if the NHL plans on either contracting 2 teams or expanding by 2 teams. I'm for contraction, but I expect the NHL does not share that opinion.

Every team should play every other team every year. I'ma fan of that change.

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#49 Spydyr
December 06 2011, 08:28AM
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Monaertchi wrote:

There are no divisions in this plan. The top 4 teams in each conference play against themselves (A1 vs A4 and A2 vs A3 -- B1 vs B4 and B2 vs B3, etc...). After that, apparently there is no plan for the remaining 8 teams.

It's a smart plan if the NHL plans on either contracting 2 teams or expanding by 2 teams. I'm for contraction, but I expect the NHL does not share that opinion.

Every team should play every other team every year. I'ma fan of that change.

Ummmmm there are two conferences and two divisions in each conference.The east has seven teams a division and the west eight.When Phoenix moves east it will balance things .Fifteen teams in each conference.That is why I suggested the wild card format.

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#50 A-Mc
December 06 2011, 08:51AM
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i like our conference mates. There is a good mix there.

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