What the NHL Realignment Means to Your Team

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Things are about to look drastically different in the NHL next season as the NHL Board of Governors approves realignment for the 2013-14 season. As seen on the infographic above, All teams that are in the Eastern Time Zone, which includes Detroit and Columbus, comprise the Eastern Conference. Also, the four divisions are unnamed. Most hockey-history buffs would want to call Division A the new Smythe Division, Division B the new Norris Division, Division C the new Adams Division, and Division D the new Patrick Division, but most likely, the division names would most likely be called the Pacific Division, Midwest Division, Central Division, and Atlantic Division. As for the new scheduling matrix, each team will face each other for at least one game in every NHL arena. A taste of what divisional play looks like next season is being played this season, with some teams playing five games against one divisional opponent and four games against another divisional opponent. Same thing goes for inter-conference play, where one team plays an opponent from the other division from the same conference three times during the season. In conclusion, the 82-game schedule will deliver equal competitive balance between divisional play, inter-conference play, and intra-conference play. As for the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’ll be a new format; which will feature something that hasn’t been seen in 20 years. The playoffs will be going back to a divisional-based format, with the top three from each division automatically qualifying for the playoffs. The fourth seed will be wild cards, with the top two teams with the highest point total from each conference, regardless of what division they’re playing, qualifying. In my opinion, The realignment and playoff restructuring is a good thing. It is a distinct throwback to the days of the Adams Division, Patrick Division, Norris Division, and Smythe Division. In those days, rivalries became established, and with the realignment, new rivalries could be born, or old rivalries could be rekindled. For example, the rivalry between the Kings and the Oilers or the Flames and the Canucks could be reignited, or the Blackhawks and the Wild could establish a rivalry in the same way that the Blackhawks and the North Stars had during the ’80s-early ’90s, or the Penguins and the Capitals. These are rivalries that were made for television, watercooler talk, and prolonged conversations on Facebook and Twitter. After all, wasn’t rivalries the foundation on which this sport was built upon?

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