After Wednesday’s piece you read that I recommended Las Vegas and Quebec City as the top two markets for NHL Expansion. This leads to the obvious question (if you have a question about the city choices then check out the story) how would the league realign? Obviously we still have the issue of an uneven western and eastern conference. It would either make matters worse as we would now have 17 in the east and 15 in the west or either Detroit or Columbus would have to move back west. The league seems to be stuck in an untenable situation. One of the best markets in North America, Quebec City, is in the east but then the alignment of the league is off.
Like a lot of things in life people can’t see the solution because of a false paradigm of one verses the other. My thought, we end the Eastern and Western Conference and divisional format. The league realigns as four eight team conferences. Out of those conferences the top four teams would play their own tournament to determine the conference champion. Those champions are reseeded into the four team tournament that determines the Stanley Cup champion. How would these conferences look: I’m glad you asked. (I kept the current division names, yes even Metropolitan, to give a sense of continuity)
|Montreal||New York Islanders||Dallas||Las Vegas|
|Ottawa||New York Rangers||Minnesota||Los Angeles|
|Tampa Bay||Pittsburgh||St. Louis||San Jose|
With the markets that would be added in this scenario most of the realignment took care of itself. Now, how the games play out is what will keep Columbus from being upset about moving out of the Eastern Time Zone.
In this setup each team would play every other team in their conference four times (two home and two away). They would then play every other team in the league twice (one home and one away). There would then be six games left for each team that could either be selected based on how teams finished the season before or could be set aside as “protected rivalries”. This could give us an extra Detroit vs Chicago, Columbus vs Pittsburgh, or even an extra round of the Canadian teams playing each other.