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The Realignment Fiasco December 6, 2011

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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Just by my usage of the word ‘fiasco’ should tell you how I feel about the decision made by the NHL’s Board of Governors. Andy Boron has an excellent summary of what the realignment looks like, and what it means for the Buffalo Sabres. While looking at all the changes, just remember that all the steps taken were approved by at least two-thirds of the GMs.

So, here’s a look at the teams that will comprise the four conferences. Yes, that is not a typo, we will have four conferences – two in the East comprising seven teams each, and two in the West comprising eight teams each. One assumes they will also have some better names than the generic A-D they have right now. I sincerely hope they do not go with naming them after past ‘great’ players, that always opens up a six-pack can of worms. So basically instead of moving either Detroit or Nashville or even Columbus to the East to fill the spot vacated by Winnipeg/Atlanta, the GMs opted to go with a completely different format for the league.

As far as how the 82-game season breaks down – each team will play the other teams in the conference six times (3H, 3A), and every other team in the league twice (1H, 1A). You can bet there is going to be a lot more travel fatigue involved. That also means your team is going to see a lot less of teams that were in your conference in the current alignment.

And then there is the playoffs, where it really gets murky. The top four teams in each conference will qualify for the playoffs, and the first two rounds will be held on an intra-conference basis, i.e the winners between A1-A4 and A2-A3 will face off for the conference title, and the four conference champions will then be reseeded for the Stanley Cup semi-finals. How they will be reseeded no one knows. Personally I can’t believe that setting up a fair and reasonable system for the playoffs wasn’t a higher priority for the thinktank of the league.

How it’s fair that the two eight-team divisions in the West have four teams qualify for the playoffs while the East has four each from the two seven-team divisions go through is also another mystery. At the very least the East should have had one eight-team conference and one seven-team conference, so that there are 15 teams in each ‘region’. But then the GMs voted this in, so evidently the smaller teams in the West either think they’re fine, or else they were badly outnumbered.. I expect details on the voting will eventually leak out, especially when some teams miss out on playoffs by the skin of their teeth.

Now, how do these changes affect the Sabres? First of all the boys will get to work on their tans a bit more with an additional pair of games in the Sunshine State added to the schedule. Sabres fans from the Carolinas north to NYC though will be shorted one game. Personally I don’t mind playing the Flyers and Penguins less, but I get the feeling we’re seeing years of history slipping away. And then come the playoffs. Back between 1982-93, the NHL used to have intra-divisional playoffs, and these were discontinued because of the lack of diversity this posed. Read this article by Dave Davis on how the Sabres struggled to get past the first rounds of the playoffs thanks to this.  With the Bruins looking as dominant as they have the last couple of years, we can expect that this quickly-simmering rivalry to kick up a few more notches into a furiously-boiling feud in no time at all.

What are your thoughts on the realignment?

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