This year was one for 'shake-em-ups' and major moves within the NHL this off season. Being a fan for life and following the past few years, the shuffling has been required for at least the last two seasons and that is not only for my team, it's across the board. The coming year on NHL ice should be grand to say the least!
The NHL is experimenting more with this project and marketing for the sport, and with the new divisions created they not only created easier travel schedules but making it a bit easier for fans of teams of the Red Wings and some other teams that played later spots to get to actually watch the game as it is played; as opposed to having to catch a replay the next morning. With six outdoor games this season, including the Winter Classic in Detroit this year and the ease of fans to access their game, combined with the teams and their shuffling, this year could be a great one for the NHL.
The NHL Divisions can be viewed here. The only one fans should not be familiar with is the Metropolitan Division, which is now home region to the: Rangers, Islanders, Flyers, Penguins, Capitals, Devils, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets. The initial reason for the alignment changes was given as geographical, and with travel costs it makes sense and hopefully packs some arenas all season with different action going on.
Within the realms of the new divisions, it goes a little like this: Eastern Conference teams will play 30 games against their division opponents (*Breaks down to four games vs. five teams and five games vs. four teams). There will also be 24 games against opponents outside of that teams conference and 28 inter-conference games are scheduled as well (*One at home and one on the road). This system is meant to allow every NHL team to play in every NHL city at least once.
The Western Conference is similar, just a change in the numbers required: these teams play division opponents 29 times (*at the same 4 games 5 teams and 5 games 4 teams). The then play 21 games but against opponents outside their conference and take on more with 32 inter-conference matches (*One on the road and one at home).
This break down changes the road to the playoffs some also, in that now The Stanley Cup Playoffs will still consist of 16 teams, eight from each conference, but it will be division-based and a wild-card system has been added.
The top three teams in each division will make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference -- regardless of division based on regular-season points. (*It will be possible for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.)
The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined by regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the fewest points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. The winners of each series will play for berths in the conference championship series.
There have been articles written on which teams will benefit from this shuffle within the NHL and which may not. This shift does change the performance levels a bit, as all teams now may face multiple teams within their regular schedule more than they used to, say later in the playoffs or in general. So to attempt to predict even still who will run with this and who will not my style. Realignment is a change and change needs to be adapted to, in order to either go with it or through it and all teams need to be in tip top shape, sharp and ready to play at all times until they learn what the new divisions will bring.
Change like this will definitely bring better hockey action on the ice, in any division, that is for sure! The fans also get to see teams they may not have gotten to prior or shuffle in some old favorites. The NHL takes a league break in February, from the 9th through the 26th, as our boys go for Olympic Gold in Russia. The Flyers Head Coach, Peter Laviolette will man the position of Assistant Coach to the Head Coach, Dan Bylsma from the Penguins camp. Should be interesting to say the least, check out the Olympic site for all information and schedules here.
With this level of changes on numerous levels within organizations, schedules and teams being built and some re-focused, the NHL season is looking to be possibly one of the best to catch yet. So stay tuned and sign up as we will go to Tampa ice a few times per month. Don't miss any of the action!! Full ACHA action with FGCU as well...
"Goodnight and good hockey!" -- Gene Hart
DROP THE PUCK!!!