In December the NHL Board of Directors modified the current alignment of the divisions in the NHL and modified the playoff format. As of now the NHLPA has temporarily delayed the changes to the divisions and playoff format.
While there are many deciding factors on why the NHLPA has decided to delay the realignment, Hurricanes captain Eric Staal stated: “”Obviously, there’s been some conflict as far as the decision-making goes, so eventually, probably going to have to find a common ground, to find some way to make it work.”
While the delay doesn’t necessarily mean that the new alignment will not happen, it does assure a few unique factors for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Factor A: The Playoff Factor
With the new beefed up divisions, only the top four teams in each division make the playoffs. Hypothetically looking back at the previous years standings, the last time the Hurricanes WOULD’VE made the playoffs would date back to their Stanley Cup Season of 2005-2006. Meaning the Hurricanes MUST build from the ground up to be able to compete in a division with the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
Factor B: Addressing the Defensive Woes of the Hurricanes
So far this season you can tell that the defense hasn’t helped out Cam Ward as good as they can this season. How does that factor the realignment you ask? Well Cam has faced the Lightning, Jets, and Panthers in division this season. (offenses ranked 14th, 15th, and 22nd respectively) So that is 18 games against average to below average offenses. Now just take in the fact that the Flyers, Penguins, Capitals, Rangers all rank in the top ten in offenses currently in the NHL, you can see where the Canes defenses problems could easily be more flabbergasted.
How do you think the stats would compare for 24 games against four top ten offenses against 18 games against average offenses? Just in case, I think the Hurricanes General Manager should take a look at his defense in the offseason and make some serious changes in order to bulk up the Hurricanes defense.
Factor C: Odd Travel Schedule
With the Winnipeg Jets still in the division (technically), how does traveling to Winnipeg on three occasions during the season affect the Hurricanes team?
Factor D: The Attendance
A bunch of fans of hockey talk about how hockey doesn’t belong in the south. Carolina and Tampa Bay have proven that it does by winning Stanley Cups in the past ten seasons. These same fans talk about how attendance to Hurricanes games prove they don’t belong in the league. Using NHL.com to look up the attendance of the Hurricanes the past two seasons this is what I have come up with.
Average attendance of home games in Carolina against the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers: 16,598 (215,786 in 13 games)
Average attendance of home games in Carolina against the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins: 17,355 (260,325 in 15 games)
There is also a few variables to these numbers: a.) The Hurricanes opened the season this year against the Tampa Bay Lightning (Sellout Crowd) b.) We ended the season at home last season against the Lightning (Also a sellout crowd)
Now I know the variables don’t affect the numbers too much, the facts are there. The only questions are how much money does the Hurricanes franchise stand to lose if they are stuck in a division with the Jets, Lightning and Panthers and how much do they have to gain if they are in a division with the Devils, Flyers, Islanders, Penguins and Rangers.