So by now you’ve heard about the NHL’s proposed realignment plan and how the teams would be split up into four conferences (or divisions, if you prefer that) in the 8-8-7-7 format.
Well, Austin, it means a few different things.
Obviously, under the current (leaked) plan, the divisions were basically formed according to time zone. The two eastern conferences consist of teams currently in the eastern time zone, and the two conferences in the west are made up of 6CT/1MT (Colorado, the farthest east) and 4PT/3MT. Obviously, this is way more favorable for the west teams as now they’re not traveling 2 or 3 time zones away with regularity. It also makes travel more North-South instead of the N-S-W-E alignment in the current makeup.
This season, the Flames will travel 44000 kilometers. Last year, it was almost 80 thousand. Now, the Flames will have either the large minority or majority of their schedule – likely in between 36 and 46 games – in-division, meaning all of those come the within more natural flight paths and easier time constraints. This also helps Sportsnet and TSN, as now there won’t be 4+ games per year starting before 530 and games starting at 9 and 10 PM ET since the Blue Jackets and Red Wings are no longer in the “west”.
Lastly, this helps to even out travel kilometers throughout the league: teams in the Atlantic division as it’s currently constituted have 5 or 6 teams within a short bus trip of them. This means that currently 57 games the Rangers play are within a drive from their house earlier in the day. Now, these teams will have to go to Carolina, Florida and further west with regularity.
Division Record in 2011-2012: 15-6-3 (1.375 PPG)
Non-Division Record in 2011-2012: 22-23-13 (.983 PPG)
Division Record in 2011-2012 adjusted for this plan: 16-11-9 (1.139 PPG)
Non-Division, Western Record in 2011-2012 adjusted for this plan: 5-7-2 (.857 PPG)
Non-Division, Eastern Record in 2011-2012 adjusted for this plan: 13-15-4 (.994 PPG)
Points in 2011-2012: 90 (37-29-16)
Points in 2011-2012 adjusted for this plan: 83 (34-33-15)
I used the records of the Flames against Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose and Los Angeles plus a point percentage of about 50% (i.e. 8 points “gained” in the extra 8 games) based on their division and non-division record in 2011-2012 to figure out the updated record. I also used the records of the Flames against Minnesota and Colorado plus a point percentage of about 50% (i.e. 2 points “lost” in the extra 4 games) as well.
As you can see, the results are a little bit different than what we saw. Part of the reason the Flames were so close to the playoffs last year was because they dominated the Northwest division. With two of the weak sisters gone, they lose a lot of potential points. If this system were in place last year, I believe the Flames would’ve either finished 10th or 11th, but that’s just looking at last year’s actual standings.
While the Flames might not see more of the Canucks and Oilers, it’s important to make a note that less “noise” from other teams will give the appearance that in-division rivalry games stand out.
Maybe a minor thing from an ownership standpoint but a big thing from a fan standpoint.
Personally, I like this new plan. I don’t see any issues with the playoff format as I believe we’re likely to see some kind of expansion into Seattle and Quebec City in the next five or so years, giving the league 32 teams. The league seems to be acting with some degree of foresight and forward thinking, which is a refreshing change of pace.