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Oh, eastern bias. You're about to get more exaggerated in the NHL. Well, that is if realignment winds up passing with the NHLPA's blessing. The main concern of the union is a mix of both travel worries and the imbalanced conferences that will give Eastern teams a better chance at making the playoffs, and as it turns out, that imbalance will also be a bit of an economic boon for the teams along the Eastern Seaboard.
We'll let SB Nation's Battle of California blog explain things from here.
In the envisioned 16-team west, each team would make the playoffs in theory 50% of the time, whereas in a 14-team east, each team improves to 57% likelihood -- over time this imbalance will put more dollars and thus more spending power in the eastern conference, as there are fewer teams to distribute to.
Per my napkin-math example, each western team under realignment would have a new expected playoff payout of $5,156,250 ($82.5M divided by 16 teams), while each eastern team would have an expected payout of $5,892,857 ($82.5M divided by 14 teams). Each eastern team annually would have a better expected payout than each western team by $736,607, near the cost of a minimum-wage player.
It's not huge, but that sort of imbalance can add up, so I think if the NHL does move to an imbalanced-conference realignment, it really should include a revenue sharing program with it.
Western interests in the NHL often claim there's an Eastern bias, and well, this would be a pretty straight-forward example of such claims. That's not to say the NHL is purposefully doing this to benefit the East or anything, but well, it is a lack of balance in a meaningful way.
Battle of California feels that a revenue sharing solution should be in order, and that's a solution that makes a lot of sense.
The NHLPA has cited extra travel as their chief reason for failing to ratify the NHL's realignment proposal, but that doesn't really make any sense at all, does it?
The National Hockey League announced today that it will not move forward with implementation of the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format recently approved by the NHL Board of Governors for the 2012-13 NHL season.
The NHLPA has refused to provide its consent to the deal, which signals what is likely the first battle in CBA talks between the league and the players. The current CBA expires after this season.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly commented on the ordeal:
"It is unfortunate that the NHLPA has unreasonably refused to approve a Plan that an overwhelming majority of our Clubs voted to support, and that has received such widespread support from our fans and other members of the hockey community, including Players."
"We have now spent the better part of four weeks attempting to satisfy the NHLPA’s purported concerns with the Plan with no success. Because we have already been forced to delay, and as a result are already late in beginning the process of preparing next season’s schedule, we have no choice but to abandon our intention to implement the Realignment Plan and modified Playoff Format for next season."
"We believe the Union acted unreasonably in violation of the League’s rights. We intend to evaluate all of our available legal options and to pursue adequate remedies, as appropriate."
As a result of decision, the NHL will maintain its current alignment and Playoff Format for the 2012-13 season. Sorry about that, Winnipeg Jets.
For more on NHL realignment, keep up to date with this StoryStream.
If the season ended today under the NHL's new alignment and playoff bracket, which annual contender would actually get an undeserved trip to the postseason?
The NHL's new alignment impacts each team in its own way. We break things down on a team-by-team basis, judging who the winners and losers of the process were in the end.
Gary Bettman spoke with the media in Pebble Beach, Calif. on Monday evening, where he presented the league's realignment plan as voted on by the NHL's Board of Governors. The plan calls for a new four-conference system, which will feature more of a balanced schedule and a focus on regional rivalries.
That whole Eastern Conference and Western Conference thing? Yeah, a thing of the past. Here's Bettman explaining the entire plan, as it fit into the context of the meetings:
- Bettman presented two plans to the Board of Governors: one featured just a simple one-for-one swap, while the other featured this radical realignment. He laid out both plans, explaining the pros and cons. The radical plan won out, and it only took about an hour to come to that determination.
- The details are not solidified just yet, but we basically know what it's going to look like. Bettman personally has to tie up some loose ends, including playoff format in the final two rounds, which he says he'll leave up to the NHL's general managers.
- The union still has to sign off on the plan, but they've already weighed in and Bettman certainly won't be presenting a plan like this without knowing he has their support.
- The easy plan -- the one-for-one swap from East to West -- never really had too much traction, despite the fact that it seemed easier, according to Bettman.
For more on NHL realignment, keep up to date with this StoryStream.
The NHL Players Association does have a say in how the league realigns, and as the Board of Governors has recommended a dramatic shift to a four-conference system, there's still that little wrinkle to work out.
Via the Globe & Mail, here's a statement from NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon on Monday evening:
"Realignment requires an agreement between the league and the NHLPA. We look forward to continuing our discussions with the league regarding this matter."
Simple enough. Gary Bettman told the media assembled in Pebble Beach, Calif. that he's spoken to the players' union and that they've yet to sign off on the plan, but that really just seems like a formality at this point.
Overall, the plan dramatically helps the players. Sure, some players on Eastern teams will have to travel a bit more, but on the whole, the new system balances travel to the point where the majority of players should be in favor of it. Just as the majority of teams were apparently in favor of it.
There's no reason to think the NHLPA would vote against this realignment.
For all you need to know on the NHL's realignment plans, stay current with this StoryStream.
Travel was one of the big concerns as we debated NHL realignment, especially for Western Conference teams. As it stands under the new four-conference system, the league will see a bit more balance when it comes to travel.
Dirk Hoag at SB Nation's Nashville Predators blog On the Forecheck crunched the numbers on the league's new alignment. Teams will play five or six games against other conference opponents, while a home-and-home will be played against each opponent from other conferences. Taking that into account, here's the breakdown:
|Central Conference||Avg. Dist.||West Conference||Avg. Dist.|
|Chicago Blackhawks||434||Anaheim Ducks||743|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||524||Calgary Flames||875|
|Dallas Stars||846||Colorado Avalanche||886|
|Detroit Red Wings||530||Edmonton Oilers||1008|
|Minnesota Wild||557||Los Angeles Kings||737|
|Nashville Predators||549||Phoenix Coyotes||812|
|St. Louis Blues||460||San Jose Sharks||745|
|Winnipeg Jets||863||Vancouver Canucks||895|
|East 1 Conference||Avg. Dist.||East 2 Conference||Avg. Dist.|
|Boston Bruins||637||Carolina Hurricanes||366|
|Buffalo Sabres||535||New Jersey Devils||173|
|Florida Panthers||1087||New York Islanders||191|
|Montreal Canadiens||617||New York Rangers||177|
|Ottawa Senators||576||Philadelphia Flyers||164|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||1013||Pittsburgh Penguins||289|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||553||Washington Capitals||195|
Travel is still obviously very easy for the teams in the mid-Atlantic U.S., and that's really to be expected with how the teams are in close quarters there. The teams in the old Northeast Division will see much more travel, but considering a good chunk of that extra travel will be to sunny Florida, they don't really get to complain.
The Panthers and Lightning might get to complain, but they get plenty of home games against the Canadiens and Maple Leafs to fill their seats. Money always mitigates concerns, and it's not as if they're traveling outside of their own time zone for those games anyway. NHL players getting on planes isn't exactly like you and I getting on a plane.
Detroit and Columbus might still be playing outside of their own time zone, but the travel for them is certainly much easier, with less trips out to the far reaches of the Western half of North America. Travel is still tough for teams way out West, but that's really just a fact of life for everything in the Western portion continent.
Things are spread out there, and there's nothing the NHL's Board of Governors can do about basic geography.
For more coverage of NHL realignment, stick with this StoryStream.
NHL realignment is here, and there's a ton of news flying around. Let's break down all the information as easily as we can, first with a look at which teams fall where.
We've posted this map about 18,000 times now, so just click if you'd like to see it again. Here's a different visual breakdown of the new conferences.
|Conference 1||Conference 2||Conference 3||Conference 4|
|Washington||Toronto||St. Louis||San Jose|
Names of the new conferences have yet to be decided, and there's no word if they could go back to the old Patrick, Adams, Norris and Smythe names.
IMBALANCE: The first thing you notice is the unbalance between the Eastern half of the league and the Western half. Keep in mind that there's no such thing as the Eastern Conference and Western Conference any longer, so that's not really of too much concern. The top four teams in each conference will make the postseason.
Gary Bettman's argument against the concern that it'll be easier to make the playoffs if you're in one of the Eastern groupings is that the bottom seedings are inconsequential. Basic mathematics seem to sit counter to that point, but we'll let you be the judge of if you care about that.
PHOENIX SITUATION: Besides, this new format might not even make it to the beginning of the 2012-13 season. There's still plenty of uncertainty revolving the Phoenix Coyotes, and it's definitely possible that the team is playing in a different city come next season. This seems to create a bit of a contingency plan for the NHL.
Should Phoenix move East to Quebec City, it's a quick swap to "Conference 2". If they were to move to Kansas City or Seattle or another Western locale, Detroit or Columbus could be shifted to "Conference 1" or "Conference 2."
Again, though, balance between the East and the West doesn't really matter at this point considering there's no such thing as the East and the West.
And, well.... it does sort of lend itself to potential expansion to 32 teams, doesn't it? /cart-before-the-horse
SCHEDULE CHANGES: There will be a home-and-home held between each team in the league, meaning that each team will play in each league city every single season. That helps travel concerns for the West to an extent, but the reality is that teams in the West are just separated by more distance and will have to travel more, no matter the alignment.
The rest of the games will be filled inside of your own conference.
If your team is in a seven-team conference, they will play 36 games inside of their conference, or six games against each team. In eight-team conferences, teams will play at least five but potentially six games against each their intra-conference foes.
PLAYOFFS: The big question is how the playoffs will work. According to Bettman, here's how things will go:
All in all, there's a whole lot of change, and not everybody will be happy with it. How does this all make you feel? For complete coverage of NHL realignment, stick with this StoryStream.
NHL realignment is here, and yes, it's radical change that will face the league as it begins the 2012-13 season. The league's Board of Governors voted in a four-conference system that doesn't include divisions. The news was first reported by Gary Lawless of the Winnipeg Free Press.
The debate, originally assumed to be a contentious one, took only an hour to conclude, according to several reports.
Further details were not immediately available, such as which teams will play in which conference, but CBC reported over the weekend a similar plan that looks like this:
Map via Cassie McClellan at Raw Charge.
Note that these divisions are not yet confirmed, but that these were reported by CBC on Saturday.
It's likely that the new playoff format that will see the first two rounds played inside of each conference, ultimately resulting in four conference champions and a final four-like setup for what used to be the Conference Final round. The top four teams from each conference would make the postseason.
The new system fixes travel concerns around the NHL, especially for the Western teams. Under the new format, according to Lawless' report and the CBC report from the weekend, among others, each team will play a home-and-home series with every other team in the league. That balances out travel substantially and helps teams like Detroit, Columbus and Dallas, which previously played a huge number of games outside of their own time zone.
We'll have more details when they become immediately available. Gary Bettman is holding a press conference from Pebble Beach, the location of the meetings, on Monday evening, so stay tuned to this StoryStream for more on this still breaking story.
Everybody seems to think that the Detroit Red Wings have the power in NHL realignment talks, but it seems that power might lie elsewhere. Also, could a 20 team playoff system be on the horizon, and how does Phoenix factor in to all of this?
Two NHL realignment proposals at opposite extremes seem designed to serve the Red Wings. But is one so Detroit-centric that it's designed to push owners to an extreme realignment that levels the field for all 30 teams?
Another radical NHL realignment plan was outlined on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday evening, and it's a plan that again shifts to a four-division format that eliminates the need for conferences.
This solution answers a lot of the problems that have surrounded the realignment debate. The Dallas Stars are removed from the Pacific Division, rivalries are preserved in the East, regional hatred is amped up with the return of divisional playoff rounds, etc.
But there are a few glaring issues that remain. For starters, Detroit and Columbus are still isolated from the Eastern Time Zone, and one of the major issues has been their desire to play games against more teams in their own time zone. HNIC gave no hints as to how the schedule would break down under this format, but the home-and-home against every team in the league idea is reportedly part of the plan here.
Travel is still much easier for the two Eastern divisions in this format, but that's kind of just a fact of life in the NHL. There are more teams in closer confines in the eastern portion of the continent, and there's no changing that. Even still, travel likely gets easier for the teams on the West Coast, and as a result, this proposal seems to have the support of just about every current Western Conference team.
Any proposal needs 20 of the league's 30 teams to sign off on it at the Board of Governors meeting this week in Pebble Beach, Calif. Even if Columbus and Detroit are against this plan -- and it's possible that they are not -- could there be support from 20 teams?
14 Western teams, plus you have to imagine the Washington Capitals support this plan, getting them out of the Southeast Division and back with their traditional rivals in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the rest of the old Patrick Division. The Penguins and Flyers almost certainly support this plan as well, considering their main concerns are that the Battle of Pennsylvania rivalry continue, as it does in this plan.
That gets us to about 17 teams, and with the Atlantic Division rivalries still intact, you might be able to assume that you can get votes from New Jersey and the two New York teams. If not, it really hinges on how the Florida teams feel about this plan.
The Panthers and Lightning will certainly have to travel more, but that rivalry with each other remains intact and the money from the transplanted fans from up north, who suddenly get to see their teams much more in the two Florida rinks, seems like it could be hard to pass up.
Either way, it's likely to be a close vote, and it's going to hinge on some Eastern Conference interests. Would more teams support this plan than a simple switch of Detroit to the East, Winnipeg to the West? You have to think that a lot of Eastern teams would be happy without the powerhouse that is the Red Wings joining their ranks, right?
NHL realignment will be the major topic discussed Monday and Tuesday when the league's Board of Governor's meets for their annual meeting in Pebble Beach, Calif., and according to a report from Sportsnet, it looks as though whatever solution the Board decides on will certainly appease the Detroit Red Wings.
Of course, the Wings happen to be one of the most influential organizations in the NHL.
We don't know if anything will be actually finalized by the time the Board of Govs goes their separate ways on Tuesday afternoon, as it takes a two-thirds vote to finalize anything, but we do know that they'll be discussing two very different plans. Via Sportsnet:
I'm told, the two plans will be presented without a recommendation from the commissioner's office, and they are plans that "reflect the greatest level of club interest." The simple one is just a swap of Detroit for Winnipeg. That fulfils the promise of Gary Bettman to Mike Illitch to put the Red Wings in the east.
The second proposal is a bit more complex. It's the four division, no conferences approach that's been rumored in the recent past, and according to Sportsnet, it would feature a balanced schedule and would keep local rivalries alive with a divisional playoffs system.
That's obviously quite the change from what we have right now, and who knows if it'll ever see the light of day. It's just as easy that we see the Red Wings join the Eastern Conference, although the placement of them into the Southeast Division does seem less than ideal.
Hopefully we find out what'll happen after the meetings on Monday and Tuesday.
A reported plan for NHL realignment that would dramatically alter the NHL's divisional landscape has drawn mixed reactions around the league. Teams and fans either love it or hate it -- or they think it's just OK.
Count the Flyers and Penguins among the proposals biggest opponents. The new plan would put the intrastate rivals in different divisions, which would mean the sides would play just two games each season in a home-and-home series.
That's hardly enough fuel to preserve a classic rivalry. Think Flyers fans are OK with just one chance to boo the heck out of Sidney Crosby?
"We are in 100 percent agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins," Flyers President Peter Luukko, a member of the Board of Governors, told the Daily Times (Delaware County, Penn.). "We are in close communication with them on this subject.
Luukko added, "This is a big rivalry that means a lot not only to us as a franchise, but to our fans, their fans, and the entire state of Pennsylvania."
A plan for NHL realignment could dramatically shake up the the league's current division alignment and postseason system. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman introduced the plan on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday Night (video), and set the chances of it going through at "50-50."
The proposal offers significant change. Before getting to the details, here's what the realignment would look like, via ProHockeyTalk:
According to Friedman, here are the big changes:
• Realignment: Teams would be redistributed into four divisions over two conferences based on geographic proximity.
• Regular Season Schedule: Teams would play a home-and-home with each team outside its division. The remaining games are split within the division.
• Postseason Schedule: The first two rounds of the postseason would be contested within each division. As Friedman points out, this is how the system worked back when the NHL had 21 teams.
So that's the basic framework. As would be expected, some teams are reportedly happier with the plan than others. West coast teams want to cut down on cross-country flights and time zone shifts. But teams like the Flyers and Penguins are worried that their intrastate rivalry will be diminished with just two games per season.
Friedman has since posted an expanded commentary on NHL realignment, which is worth a read. So what has to happen for this to, well, happen? Friedman:
If Commissioner Bettman wants to push this through, he needs 20 votes when the Board of Governors convenes December 5 at Pebble Beach. (Easy place to get work done, I know.) Weeks ago this proposal was going nowhere. "Dead," one executive described it.
... So let's work backwards. Bettman needs 20 votes. There are 15 teams in the West. I can't say with certainty that he has all of them in his pocket, but if he doesn't, it's close. So, how many Eastern teams does he need? Five? Six? Maybe eight?
For the latest on NHL Realignment and more hockey news and opinion, stay tuned to SB Nation's NHL hub.
In the last 44 years of NHL history, the league has realigned in a significant way five times. Let's look back at that history and see what we can learn as we prepare for another round of change.
The NHL is expected to decide on the future alignment of its conferences in December, and the only thing we can say with near certainty is that the Detroit Red Wings will be in the Eastern Conference come the 2012-13 season. Whether that is part of a major realignment of the teams is still undecided. According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, there are only two expected moves: the Red Wings to the Southeast division in the Eastern Conference and the Winnipeg Jets to the Central division in the Western Conference.
The Jets are playing in the Southeast division this season as a result of moving from Atlanta during the summer. But this change still leaves Detroit geographically challenged. While Detroit gains the Eastern Conference spot in has long desired, their new division rivals range from Washington to Carolina and from Tampa to Sunrise, Fla.
The NHL will likely announce realignment in December. In order to solve travel and economic imbalance, the league should shift to a model that mirrors the NFL and MLB.
The Detroit Red Wings will be a member of the Eastern Conference when the NHL realigns for the 2012-13 season, according to somebody who would be in a position to divulge such information: the owner of the team.
"The commissioner (Gary Bettman) promised me I was next. We even had a meeting over lunch this past season, and he had all his people here, and he goes, 'Yeah, I promised Mike he'd be the next one to go in the Eastern Conference.' So I expect to be in next year. Jimmy D (Devellano) is on the phone every other week reminding them."
Devellano is the Senior Vice President of the Red Wings. A Detroit move to the Eastern Conference is not necessarily unexpected, as we've known about their desire to move for some time now, but it certainly will ruffle some feathers. And we don't mean that as a Chicago Blackhawks pun. (Okay, yes we do.)
The balance of power in the NHL will distinctly shift with the Red Wings coming East and the Winnipeg Jets shifting to the West next season, if that indeed is the only change that occurs. The NHL Board of Governors has discussed realignment recently and they're expected to finalize some decisions by the end of the 2010 calendar year.
H/T: Craig Custance
We're not going to have an announcement or even a decision today or likely any time in the near future, but NHL realignment is indeed on the agenda as the NHL's Board of Governors meets in New York City on Tuesday.
Realignment is indeed coming for the 2012-13 NHL season, correcting the placement of the Winnipeg Jets in the Southeast Division for this season, a hold over from their days as the Atlanta Thrashers. We don't know at this point whether a small shift will be made, but considering Winnipeg will almost certainly be changing conferences, there will at least have to be some other changes made for next year.
It's possible that the Board of Governors will discuss changing the structure of the conferences by creating four divisions of seven or eight teams. Columbus, Nashville and Detroit have reportedly expressed an interest in moving to the Eastern Conference.
Every NHL team wants to have a say in how this process will play out, and their input will matter in the ultimate outcome. Whether or now that's an extreme change or just a few minor tweaks is the real question here.
The NHL hopes to have a decision made by December.
Looks like NHL realignment is not such a done deal, after all. Although Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold seemed let slip that the Winnipeg Jets would move into a new Central Division along with the Wild for the 2012-13 season, an ESPN report suggests no such move in imminent. Rather than the move being a done deal, in fact, ESPN's sources are suggesting that the Atlanta Thrashers' relocation to Winnipeg is prompting the NHL to rethink their entire conference and schedule structure.
Among the possible changes are moving from the current six-division and highly unbalanced schedule to one that features four divisions and is more balanced. Which teams could be moving from one conference to the other also appears to be an open question, as the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets have expressed an interest in moving to the East and the Nashville Predators have asked to move West.
The NHL is planning on realigning its divisions next year, though it has yet to give any specifics as to how it will realign and which teams will be where.
So perhaps Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold was supposed to stay mum on the issues when he appeared on KFAN in Minneapolis on the Paul Allen Show and basically told everyone what the brand-new Central Division will look like and what kind of changes are in store (audio here, discussion at 21 minute mark, H/T: ProHockeyTalk).
Our division would include the Winnipeg Jets, us, the Blues, the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets… maybe not depending on if they go east or west. I am all in favor of that. I think that is a grand slam, home run, hat trick for our team.
We’re all Central Division now. All of our teams, except for Columbus, all of our teams will be Central Division. We’ll play less teams in Canada. We will play every team home and away at least one time.
If true, the first thing you might notice is that the Detroit Red Wings are not in the Central. That would mean the Red Wings and the Blackhawks would be in different divisions, which seems strange.
Another thing to notice, if we assume this is true and that Detroit is heading East, the Pacific Division should look a little something like Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
Of course, remember this is hearsay until the NHL officially announces it. But it does shed some light on how the league is thinking in terms of teams and scheduling.
For more hockey coverage, stick with our NHL hub.
As a result of the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg to become the Jets at the start of the 2011-12 season, the National Hockey League will need to realign the league in the future. According to several reports, Commissioner Gary Bettman plans to radically alter the hockey landscape.
Currently, the Jets are in the Southeast Division with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals. But simply moving a few teams around to accommodate the Jets in a new division is unlikely should the NHL's Board of Governor's approach Bettman's plan. The two-conference, three-division setup would be scrapped in favor of a two-conference, two-division scheme. Those divisions would still follow an East-West divide with Pacific, Midwest, East and South groupings.
In each conference, there would be an eight-team and a seven-team division. In order to make this proposal work, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings would likely shift over to the new Eastern Conference. SB Nation Detroit offers several realignment scenarios that move the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference, though all still involve three divisions in each conference. The more pressing concern, however, involves the specter of future realignment: if other teams, possibly Columbus or Phoenix, need to relocate to remain feasible franchises, will the NHL have to reshape itself again?
Winging It In Motown, our Red Wings blog, also looks at four ways the Wings could move to the Eastern Conference and concludes that playing in the Eastern Time Zone benefits them in the playoffs, but that their rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks could disappear.
For more hockey coverage, stick with our NHL hub.