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by Christian Wick
The NHLPA and the Board of Governors have approved NHL Realignment for the 2013-14 season. Below is the map of what it looks like according to NHL.com
The wisdom of the NHL strikes again. I’m willing to bet most elementary kids who have no knowledge or interest in the NHL would look at this funny.
Who do we have to blame for this? Atlanta. Yep, good ole ATL. The worst sports city in America couldn’t hold on to the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets). The NHL got its Eskimo panties in a wad and re-aligned to cater to another Canadian team. [This is actually the second team Atlanta has lost – the Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary in 1980.]
Here are some obvious problems:
1. The conferences don’t equal each other.
It’s clear they want to keep all the Northeastern Rivalries intact and added Detroit to the East to boost TV numbers. No one can argue with that and with keeping the Original 6 close together (minus Chicago). However, they moved Columbus as well, which means there are 14 teams in the West and 16 in the East. And this is logical in what way?
I don’t want to hear arguments about cross division wild cards or other stupid crap that tries to fix a problem. A problem they willingly made. The NBA has 30 teams. 15 in the West, 15 in the East. MLB finally got with the program and fixed its numbers problem. But not the NHL.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a Predators fan, so making the playoffs is easier for my team, but is it fair in the East? Don’t you want good teams to be spread to both sides? I know, I know. These are logical questions, which seem to be hard for the NHL front office.
But all the teams are grouped by time zones.
Yes they are (except Colorado and Phoenix). Which is very good for the NHL travel schedule (well for most of the teams – See Point #2). But the NBA doesn’t do this, and they’re doing quite well. MLB doesn’t do this, and they’re doing pretty good. The NFL doesn’t do this, and they’re #1. The NHL bows to time; the others make time zones bow to them.
They did this to make way for new teams in the future.
New teams? NEW TEAMS?!?!?!? You want to talk expansion in a league that’s had two major work stoppages since 04-05? I don’t think so. Plus, if any team relocates (I’m looking at you Phoenix) they’d most likely go East. The NHL would freak out again and start this whole process over (although, I wouldn’t mind seeing them having to scrap this model – It can’t get any worse, can it?).
You can’t compare the NHL to the other leagues, its not fair!
You wanna be relevant in American Sports? You gotta measure up to the big boys.
2. Why are the Florida teams in the same division with Canada?
I want to know how many people think this is a good idea. Seriously. Forget the TV numbers. It’s really hard to believe the Union and the Board of Governors said, “Okay, this looks good and ready to go.” But they did. Remember these are the same folks who cancelled one season and nearly cancelled this one.
You can yell at me all you want about how the teams in the south don’t matter (even though Carolina and Tampa have won the Stanley Cup, D.C. has Ovechkin and Tampa has Stamkos) but all the arguing points to one fundamental flaw in the NHL: you are only as strong as your weakest team.
Why is the NFL so strong? Because the NFL takes care of all 32 teams. Sure, the NFL treats some teams differently than others, but every team has the ability to build a multiple Super Bowl Winning Team and turn a profit. The NHL (along with the other two major sports) cannot say that about all of their teams.
You might think the Florida teams don’t matter, but they do. They absolutely do.
Speaking of the NFL, before 2002, their alignment was atrocious. Especially in the NFC. Remember these divisions?
2001 NFC East:
Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals.
2001 NFC Central:
Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
and my favorite, the 2001 NFC West:
San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers.
Damn, that’s really bad.
But what did the NFL do? When they added the Texans, they realigned the teams to make the divisions work. They needed a major change. The NHL needed a minor change.
3. What the NHL should have done.
It’s very simple.
A. Move Winnipeg to the West and Columbus to the Southeast.
Columbus has been one of the weaker teams in the NHL for years. The solution? Put them in the East. Do something good for one of your weaker teams. Give them multiple home games against Ovechkin. Improve their TV ratings by making their games earlier. Help out their travel schedule. Now all of these things will happen for Columbus, it’s just happening at the expense of logic.
B. Round Robin – Winnipeg to the Northwest Division, Colorado to the Pacific Division, and Dallas to Central Division.
Winnipeg fits right in – 4 Canadian teams and Minnesota, which is cold enough to be Canada.
Colorado, I know you’ll complain about losing rivalries, but you’ve only been there since 1995 (Formerly the Quebec Nordiques – good luck pronouncing that correctly). I know you won two Stanley Cups with Roy, Sakic, and Forsberg, but you can’t cling to the glory days. Time to start anew. Plus, wouldn’t you rather travel to sunny California for games than the frozen north? I would. Plenty of people would too. Why do you think people retire to Florida? Instead, you’ll have to play with us in the Central or Division B or whatever stupid name the NHL will give it.
Dallas, you’ve got no room to gripe either. You’ve only been there since ’93. I know you like going to California, but do you like crossing two time zones for your games (except for Phoenix which is on “Arizona Time”)? Time zones shouldn’t matter, but wouldn’t you rather play teams in your time zone? Trust me, Dallas would have made a great addition to the Central. Can you imagine what this division would have looked l like? Stars, Blues, Predators, Hawks, and Red Wings. Sign. Me. Up.
Sadly, this plan won’t go into effect. The NHL has made a terrible mistake and will continue to struggle (also due to a myriad of other issues – but this doesn’t help).
I’d like to leave you with a quote from a favorite meme of mine. I think the NHL should take this to heart.
Follow me on twitter – @cpwick