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The Realignment Screwjob

The NHL has been realigned for next season, and you don’t have to look far to find a wild opinion one way or the other. The league has been “divided” into four conferences, the two western-most including 8 teams while the eastern ones including 7 teams. Because everyone knows that 4 does not divide evenly in to 30, and Gary Bettman just plain doesn’t care.

The issue had come up that Western Conference teams had too demanding a travel schedule. The Detroit Red Wings were rather vocal about being able to move East, and it was plain silly to have the Winnipeg Jets belong to the Southeast Division. It seemed the fix was simple. WRONG!

The role of The Roadrunner will be played by a successful expansion of the league. Every eight year old knows how this ends.

In a season that has included enforcers passing away in the summer, super stars being injured during the season, and a new guy doling out punishments at his discretion, Gary Bettman gave us all what we asked for. Divisional playoffs!


There’s a great map graphic on Puck Daddy (credited to www.rawcharge.com) that displays the new conferences. Now, really, he got the thing 3/4 right. I will give credit to the fact that the West looks a lot better and more manageable. The three California teams get placed with the three Western Canada teams, Colorado, and Phoenix. That’s about as manageable as the wild west can get for travel schedules.

The “central” division looks awesome, to tell the truth. Minnesota, Dallas, Winnipeg, Columbus, Detroit, St. Louis, Chicago, and Nashville? Sign me up!

The “Atlantic” area preserves the classic rivalries of Pittsburgh, Philly, the New York Rangers, and New Jersey Devils. Throw in the Islanders, Carolina, and Washington to round it out nicely.

*dust off the hands* A job well done, gentlemen. Wassat? More teams? Eh, just throw them in a pile together. There we are…we’ve got Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Boston, aaaaaaaaaaand Tampa Bay and Florida (why aren’t they called the Miami Panthers?). Waitwhat?

Call me crazy, but isn’t Dallas a whole helluva lot closer to Miami than Montreal. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put the “Southern” teams together, ending up with Florida (Miami), Tampa Bay, Carolina, Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis, and Washington?

Then they could get all crazy and put Winnipeg, Columbus, Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago, and hell Toronto and Buffalo in a “division” together? Or put Philly and Pittsburgh over there? I know the travel out to Winnipeg still isn’t ideal, but at least you’re not going from Miami to Montreal five or six times per season!

"If I wanted to make money, I'd sell jet fuel to the Panthers and Lightning." - #FakeTerryPegulaQuote (image courtesy Sabres.nhl.com)

I suppose moving Toronto away from Montreal or moving Philly away from New York would hurt those long, trusted rivalries. Who cares? Joe from BuffaloWins put it perfectly today:

It’s not about the front of the jersey or the proximity from each city, it is about the players themselves. If the teams are good, it can become a rivalry. Where was that Boston/Buffalo rivalry from 1996-2007? Oh, it didn’t exist because Boston was terrible during that stretch. What about today? How is that Sens/Sabres rivalry looking?

The reason New York and Philly are such rivals any more is because they’re touted as such. When one of them has an off-year, it still gets pumped up and hyped for no reason other than “it’s classic.” Screw classic, you’ve got guys flying from Florida to Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto to play in their “division!” All to preserve some BS rivalry, a loss of which will not affect ticket sales if the teams churn out good hockey.

Nope. We’ve gotta keep forcing the makeshift Washington/Pittsburgh rivalry down peoples’ throats. Even though it’s long since been realized that the Pens will always come out on top.

What does it all amount to? For me, it’s simple. Bettman and company made a move that worked 75%, and it may be a “pre-alignment” for a league expansion. That’s all. Now, 75% may be well and good in the corporate world, but as much as I pick on Florida and Tampa Bay for not being traditional hockey markets, they do have fans. They have loyal fanbases, and beyond that they should be equals in this 30 team league. They’re not.

Here’s your league realignment. Florida teams have to suck it up and get ready to travel, and the current Northeast Division has to do the same. We’ll just call it what it is: The Montreal Screwjob.



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