On Monday the NHL board of governors approved the new four conference format for the NHL. These conferences are currently unnamed and will be as follows:
Conference A: Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado, and Vancouver.
Conference B: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, and Winnipeg.
Conference C: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Toronto.
Conference D: Carolina, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington.
The best thing regarding the Vancouver Canucks that will come out of this NHL conference realignment is going to be the reduction of travel. The Canucks will play every team outside of their conference twice; one at home and one away. This means that instead of travelling all the way to Chicago twice during regular season, it will now only be once. The Canucks will play teams within their conference 5 or 6 times the amount of games will rotate each season. This makes travel a lot easier because within the conference there is little time change and it allows more time spent in the pacific time zone.
Another great thing about this realignment is that it could set up for a potential Canucks/Blackhawks final. Considering the teams’ rivalry this would be a highly viewed matched up because it would be physical, fast-paced, high scoring, and it would be great entertainment.
Think of the last time Vancouver played Calgary in the playoffs. About 9 years I believe? Next think about the last time Vancouver played Edmonton in the playoffs. For those of you born after 1987 you were probably too young or not alive yet to witness the last Vancouver/Edmonton playoff series in 1992. Also interested in the Battle of Alberta? I know I am, however Edmonton and Calgary have not met in the playoffs since 1991. It has been far too long for all three teams considering their rivalries and the entertainment that their playoff series would contain. The new alignment offers a greater chance of all of these match ups happening, of coarse they would have to make the playoffs first (looking at you Calgary).
The first two rounds of the playoffs would be played within the conference. For example, pretend the top 4 best to worst points wise is as follows:Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Calgary. First round match ups would be Vancouver/Calgary and San Jose/ Los Angeles. Second round for example, would be Vancouver/San Jose. This creates a lot of different playoff opportunities for the Vancouver Canucks. I’m sure Vancouver fans would smile and cheer at the fact of not having to meet Nashville ever again in the first two rounds.
The new playoff system would also reduce travel for first two rounds. Last season Vancouver had to travel all the way to Chicago and Nashville the first two rounds. Think of the distance and the difference of time zones, physically and mentally draining. Playing the first two rounds against Calgary and then San Jose would make travelling a lot easier for Vancouver and the other teams as well.
All good things come with some bad, it’s almost inevitable. Having more teams in the conference means playing more conference games (5 or 6 times) and that leads to less out of conference games. How many of you Vancouver fans plan a trip to the bar for Vancouver/Chicago games? Vancouver and Chicago have developed a very nasty rivalry the past few years from meeting in the playoffs three years in a row. To put it simple: the teams do not like each other and this makes for great hockey. With the new conference alignment Vancouver will only play Chicago 2 times rather than 4 and the chances of them meeting in the playoffs are a lot less likely. One game will be played in Vancouver, finding affordable tickets to this game will almost be impossible.
Look at the current Northwest Division and then compare it to conference A. Big change isn’t it? Each conference will have 4 teams make the playoffs, the four best. This means that Vancouver will have to compete against playoff regulars such as: San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. That is 4 teams right there and think about Edmonton in the next few years. With young stars such as Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton will also be big competition for 1 out of 4 of those playoff spots. Competition will be much tougher than it is now.
If you read into this conference alignment yesterday when it was announced or if you have at least toddler level math skills you may have noticed that not every team has the same odds of making the playoffs. In conference A and B, teams including Vancouver have 4/8 odds of making the playoffs. In conference C and D, teams including Boston (shudders) have 4/7 odds of making the playoffs. Shouldn’t every team have an equal chance at making the playoffs? The bottom line is that it is an unequal system. Gary Bettman commented on this matter and said it didn’t matter because the last few teams don’t ever end up competing for a spot anyways. But when you’re in a conference as tough as conference A, there is always going to be one team, maybe two that don’t make the playoffs that should. For example last season 5 of the teams in conference A made the playoffs. If it was the new system than Los Angeles (98 points) would have been knocked out of the playoffs and Dallas (95 points) would have been in.
The bottom line is that there is no way to argue against the system being unfair because every team should have equal odds and the math supports that this new alignment doesn’t provide that. Some kind of solution to this problem needs to be made, such as a wildcard system so that every team has equal odds.
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