I’m sure most of you, if not everyone, has already heard about the new realignment plan for next season. The scheduling system has been thoroughly explained, and it is far more balanced and fair in terms of travel and a few other things. However, there are a ton of changes that we’re going to have to get used to.
We already play our division foes 6 times, so not much changes in terms of the Rangers, Islanders, Penguins and Devils. Now, we’ll just be seeing Carolina and Washington 2 more times, since we currently play 4 times a year. But now that Boston, Montreal and Toronto are in a different conference, rather than division, those rivalries die down a lot. Instead of seeing them 4 times, we only see them 2 times. While it’s great that we get to see teams from the west more often, we lose out on some familiar opponents a little.
I understand the need to accommodate teams that have to travel a lot. Still, I think drumming up rivalries is a bit more important. I’d rather sacrifice 1 division game against each team just to see a few teams from other conferences a bit more often. They could even rotate which conferences play 3 games instead of two, somewhat similar to how the NFL rotates their schedule.
When it comes to the playoffs, things become even more convoluted. Since there are only conferences, and no more divisions, you can see the Flyers-Bruins play in the finals, or the Red Wings-Avalanche. That’s great, but what makes the playoffs so much fun is the entire ride. And the way things are shaping out, it seems like the 1st two rounds of the playoffs will be against teams in your conference. After 4 conference champions emerge, teams get reseeded. That means we might play teams like Los Angeles or Anaheim in the Frozen 4. That’s a lot of travel, and it’s not even the final round. And it’s not even against an opponent that you’re familiar with or that you really hate. It’s always great to make the Finals, but it loses some luster when it’s not someone that you’re a bit closer to.
Also, you’re still going to have the controversy where teams in one conference miss the playoffs, while having more points than teams in another conference that do qualify. There’s always going to be those flaws. The only way to fix that is to have the top 16 teams make it based on points, and then have the highest seed playing the lowest, and so forth. But once again, you’ll open the door for potential travel issues if you have a 1st round matchup between say Vancouver and Florida.
Anyway, I want to get back to my original point. I’m not completely in favor of the realignment because I feel like we’re losing out on long established rivalries we have. Of course I want to see every single team, every year. But i don’t want to lose out on the teams that we’ve grown to hate over our 40+ years of existence. There is now a lower chance of seeing the Bruins, Sabres, Maple Leafs and Canadiens in the playoffs. I like playing a division rival in the playoffs, but once is enough for me. I like a bit more variety. Oh well, I guess we’ll just see how it goes in the next few years.
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