December 6th, 2011, 9:14 am
The biggest news of the season so far is the announcement of a complete overhaul of the NHL alignment, going from six 4-team divisions and two conferences into four conferences, two with 7 teams, two with 8. The idea would be to make the travel a bit more equitable (see this Puck Daddy post for all the gritty details). But with most things, you can’t make anything completely equal- the 8-team conferences, of which the Sharks will be a part, will have one more team to contend with to make the postseason. Each conference will do a 4-team mini-playoff, with the winner of each conference heading to the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
It’s a radically different scheme than today. Most people (myself included) are somewhat leery and afraid of change, so my initial reaction was, “that’s crazy, and therefore bad!”. But after thinking about it for only a short while, I’m getting used to the idea, and I kind of like it. Here are my pros and cons:
- Visibility. The biggest pro of the new scheme is we will see every NHL team in San Jose every year. For instance, this year we won’t see the Rangers, Flyers (Pronger BOOOOO), or Maple Leafs in our barn. Not being able to crack jokes in person at Joffrey Lupul’s expense just hurts me a little bit inside.
- Travel. More games against fewer teams that are closer mean fewer time changes. Playing Nashville or Detroit in the first round of the playoffs really sucks from a travel standpoint, and under the new alignment, this would never happen.
- Playoff potential. The Final Four thing is just cool (new and improved Frozen Four, anyone?). Right now the Stanley Cup Semifinals are just another step on a long journey to the Cup; if I were the league, I’d really play up this angle.
- Rivalries. It will be hard to maintain the same bad blood with the Wings or Chicago if we only face them twice a year, and never in the playoffs until the 3rd round.
- OD’ing on a few teams. When you play a terrible team six times, the games can often be snoozers. With the larger conferences, the chances of two or even three teams being bad is much higher.
I will leave you with a chart I made indicating how the number of matchups will change. I used this year’s schedule, and assumed, for simplicity’s sake, that the three teams we will play 6 times next year are the Ducks, Coyotes, and Kings.