The NHL realignment announced last week will completely change the landscape of the league and has fans in an uproar. The new format will take the two NHL conferences and divide them into four conferences, similar to the pre-1993 format where the divisions had names like Campbell and Norris. Each of the four new conferences will take the top four teams into the playoffs and faceoff inner conference in the first two rounds. The winners of the conferences may be reseeded in the semi-finals or split by region.
The Avalanche will play in the most Western conference. The other teams include: San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Phoenix. The rest of the current Western Conference will form a conference with Winnipeg being included. That means that the current Western Conference will house 16 of the 30 teams with the two Eastern Conferences having seven teams apiece.
The imbalance of the four conferences is the worst part of this proposal. I do think Phoenix will likely move to the East, probably Quebec City. If the league stays with this format, I think they will eventually have to expand or contract. While expansion is the likely route, I would much rather see the league cut two teams. No one wants Phoenix and several teams, including the Islanders, Devils and Stars, are in a lot of financial trouble. I do not see the league cutting down on teams. I think Quebec City, Kansas City and Seattle would all be great locations for a new franchise. Would the talent pool become too watered down? Ask the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Personally, I like several aspects of this new alignment. Every team will visit the Pepsi Center once a year and the Avs will travel to every stadium. The rest of the games will be played in the conference. I think this will create more rivalries, while at the same time cutting down on the overkill we saw when teams played each other eight times in a year. The number will now be five or six.
The playoffs should be really entertaining in the first two rounds. The bad blood built over the season will spill over into the first two rounds, but it could become repetitive over a number of years if the same teams win the conferences. I think that would probably be a good thing because that builds rivalries.