Can A 2 1 2 Year Old Fly For Free NHL Realignment Explained

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NHL Realignment Explained

During the 2012-13 regular season of yesteryear, the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to a restructuring of league divisions. The new NHL realignment is a radical departure from the old system of 6 divisions divided equally into 2 conferences. At the start of the 2013-14 NHL regular season, there will be 4 divisions. In the East – 2 divisions of 8 teams. In the West – 2 divisions of 7.

The NHL is a league of 30 teams. The realignment divides the conferences unevenly, breaking a fourteen-year stretch of 15 teams in the East and 15 in the West. Separating the conferences into two groups of 15 no longer makes sense geographically because the eastern side of North America is home to more teams than the western side. Under the old system, some Eastern Time Zone NHL clubs were forced to exist in the Western Conference, creating an unfair travel schedule for players and inefficient travel costs for owners.

With the NHL realignment in place, Eastern time zone teams the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets are enjoying a refreshing escape from the demanding travels of the Western Conference. Under the previous system, the Wings and Jackets were forced to fly all over the American South, Midwest and Western North America throughout an NHL season. Teams just a little further east on the map have had the luxury of playing in the Eastern Conference, where they’ve avoided such rigorous routes to their next play destinations, aside from a few road trips.

In 2011, the Eastern Time Zoned Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, creating a serious scheduling anomaly. The Winnipeg Jets operate outside the central time zone. With the CSE’s Winnipeg Jets playing in the Eastern Conference and the EDT’s Red Wings and Blue Jackets playing in the West, the schedule had to be set.

The new divisional format was supposed to be in place last season, but the NHLPA voted against the realignment in 2012-13. Perhaps the impending NHL lockdown prevented the PA from taking a position on major changes to the game, at the time. With the lock in the rearview mirror, the realignment was finally approved last March.

NHL Realignment – The New Divisions

Western Conference – Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks – Calgary Flames – Edmonton Oilers – Los Angeles Kings – Phoenix Coyotes – San Jose Sharks – Vancouver Canucks

Western Conference – Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks – Colorado Avalanche – Dallas Stars – Minnesota Wild – Nashville Predators – St. Louis Blues – Winnipeg Jets

Eastern Conference – Metropolitan Division

Carolina Hurricanes – Columbus Blue Jackets – New Jersey Devils – New York Islanders – New York Rangers – Philadelphia Flyers – Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals

Eastern Conference – Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins – Buffalo Sabers – Detroit Red Wings – Florida Panthers – Montreal Canadiens – Ottawa Senators – Tampa Bay Lightning – Toronto Maple Leafs

NHL Realignment Playoff Structure:

From now on, the playoffs are no longer an every man for himself fight for a place in the top 8 of the conference. Like the good old days, NHL clubs will face their division rivals in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs under the NHL’s new realignment system. The Conference Finals will feature the surviving team from, say, the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division and the remaining team from the Eastern Metropolitan Division.

Where the NHL realignment differs from the division structure of the early 90s is the introduction of a wild card. The last time the NHL used the “go through your division first” structure was in 1992-93. In 93′ and for years before, the top four records from each of the 4 league divisions made the playoffs. Over the course of two rounds, one of these four teams would stand, crowned the division champion, and advance to the conference finals to face the winner of the other conference division.

This time around, the top 3 in each of the four league divisions will be guaranteed a birth in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Rather than allowing the top 4 in each division, NHL Realignment reserves the final two playoff spots in each conference for the top two records, not counting teams that place in the top 3 in their division. Therefore, if the 4th and 5th place team in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division end the season with more points than the 4th place team in the Eastern Conference Metropolitan Division – they both make the playoffs playoffs and the metro is represented by only 3 teams.

Because you can’t have a playoff format with 5 playoff teams from one division and 3 from the other, Wild Card teams are likely to cross paths. When the Stanley Cup playoffs begin, the best overall record in the Eastern Conference is playing the Wild Card team with fewer points, regardless of what division the team is playing in.

4 departments. 2 per conference. The top 3 teams in each division earn a spot in the playoffs. The top 2 records in each conference, not the top 3 in their division, are referred to as Wild Card teams. The best record in the conference is playing against the lowest-ranked Wild Card team. *Wild Card teams may be eligible to move to neighboring division during the playoffs.

Let’s say the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Metro Division and finish with the most points in the East. And the Toronto Maple Leafs finish 5th in the Atlantic, however, they finish the season with more points than the 4th place team in the subway. Assuming the scenario mentioned above happens, the Toronto Maple Leafs will enter the Stanley Cup playoffs as the lowest-ranked Wild Card team, thus, they will cross paths and face the best record in the league. ‘is, a member of the Metropolitan. It’s how NHL Realignment makes sure the best teams make the playoffs.

It is also very possible that the Wild Card does not interfere. There are two divisions within a conference, therefore, that conference will have two 4th place teams. If the two 4th place teams have the best records outside the top 3 in each division, they both qualify for the playoffs. If the best team record in the conference belongs to the 1st place team in the division that houses the lower of the two 4th place teams – everything is normal and the Wild Card does not work – or works, but does not modify not the traditional playoff format.

If the NHL is to crown the division champions again, like in the good old days, there is a possibility for a Division A team to become Division B champion. If the Toronto Maple Leafs start the playoffs in the Metropolitan Division playoff bracket due to their status as a Wild Card team, they will remain in this bracket throughout the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. This creates the possibility for two teams from the same division to meet in the Conference Finals.

Biggest flaw in NHL realignment – if a conference’s top two teams play in the same division, they’ll likely fight in the 2nd round of the playoffs, instead of possibly meeting in the conference finals under the former system. It could very well happen this season in the West, between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues.

The NHL realignment was only agreed to for a three-year period. After three years, there will be a re-evaluation of the realignment with the possibility of two expansion teams joining the National Hockey League.

Sal Ientile, Hockey Daily editor

thehockeydaily.com

Twitter: @TheHockeyDaily

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