The NHL is talking realignment and is hoping the NHLPA will accept two eight team divisions and two seven team divisions with the Eastern Conference having 16 teams while the West will have only 14.
The Player's Association is not happy as only eight of 16 teams in the East will make the playoffs with eight of 14 in the West doing so.
I have a solution to the problem which I will call "The Finewax Plan". (Good thinking huh!)
The divisions according to the NHL will be as follows:
Atlantic: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.
Central: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto.
Mid-West: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.
Pacific: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
Each team will play every team outside their division twice, once home and once away with the remainder of the games within their division to make up an 82 game schedule.
Therefore during the regular season, it really does not matter what team is in the East or West as the schedule is fairly balanced.
The only problem therefore is in the playoffs.
Here is the solution.
In the first year the Atlantic division and the Mid-West division would be one conference while the Central and the Pacific are the other Conference.
The big problem according to the NHL is that they want the East-West rivalry to continue in the Final. But in two of the other three major sports, baseball and football, that is not the case as the leagues are divided into National and American Conferences in football and Leagues in baseball. No fan ever complains that there are two Eastern teams at the end or two Western teams.
The NHL wants to keep divisional play in the first two rounds with the top three teams in each division automatically qualifying, and then the next two best teams in the Conference. In the worst case scenario travel-wise, the Rangers win the Atlantic and only two other teams qualify in their division while let's say Colorado qualifies as the fifth best team (the furthest team in miles from New York in the Mid-West division). The Avalanche would then qualify as the fourth place team in the Atlantic.
The Rangers would complain that they have to travel a lot more than the other teams in their division but that never seemed to have bothered baseball as many times the Yankees would play a West coast team (e.g. Oakland) while Boston would play someone in the East. Besides, the Western teams have to do a lot of traveling in the first couple of rounds and there usually isn't a lot of complaining from them.
This plan would then have the division champs meeting in the third round with the winners having to travel a fairly equal amount in the Conference finals rather than Eastern teams having little travel in the first three rounds under the original proposal with the Western teams racking up enough air miles for a trip anywhere in the world.
It is a much fairer way of balancing and there would now be 15 teams in each conference with the possibility of an Eastern Stanley Cup final or two teams from the West playing for Lord Stanley's Cup.
Let me know your thoughts.
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