The NHL is ready to discuss two drastically different realignment plans this afternoon as they kick off their annual Board of Governors meetings in Pebble Beach, Calif. Representing the Flyers at the meetings are Ed Snider, Peter Luukko, Paul Holmgren and some lawyer guy whose name is not important, and it's evident that the Flyers have a lot of clout out there.
I talked about this exact topic this morning in my column at SBNation.com -- basically, the Flyers (and Penguins) are kind of running this whole thing. More so than the Red Wings, at least, and the conventional wisdom has generally been that the Red Wings have all the pull here. In a nutshell:
Moves were made -- against the wishes of the Red Wings -- to appease interests in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Which teams really hold the power in these negotiations? It doesn't seem like it's Detroit after all.
What were those moves?
Well, the radical realignment plan that came out via the CBC a few weeks back has been tinkered. Detroit moves back to the Central and unlike it did originally, the altered plan keeps the Penguins and Flyers together in what basically amounts to the old Patrick Division: Flyers, Pens, Islanders, Rangers, Devils, Capitals, Hurricanes. You can see the whole plan on the map above.
In all its glory. What a conference. The dream conference, really. (And yes, the NHL wants us to think of this new format as four conferences, not four divisions. Alright then.)
I hate five of those opponents, and I can totally learn to hate Carolina. Fuck Rod Brind'Amour, am I right? (Okay, maybe that's pushing it., but you get the point.)
I argued for this reincarnation of the Patrick Division back in a story I wrote almost three years ago, and I couldn't be happier that it's looking like the front-runner in the current realignment debate.
Gary Bettman endorses it, the entire Western half of the league endorses it, and several NHL general managers reportedly agree that the Commissioner wouldn't be bringing it up for a vote if he were unsure of the support it had around the league. 20 of 30 teams have to sign off on any plan.
The reasons to love this plan go beyond having the Flyers play in a really, really fun division, though. After all, we basically have this now -- more than half of our divisional opponents would remain the same. Let's look at some other reasons why we should be rooting for this one.
Alright, so travel is the sticking point on this plan for many of the current Eastern Conference teams. The format calls for a balanced schedule, meaning that while you play a large number of games against your own conference, you also play a home-and-home with every team in the league. Travel will increase for Eastern teams, but really, it's not anywhere as bad as it is for teams in the West. It's a little more balance, and there's nothing wrong with that.
The best part is that we'll see the Flyers play everybody, in Philadelphia, every single season. That's exciting to me. I enjoy getting the chance to see every team in the league, and of course, it's good for displaced Flyers fans that live in or around other NHL markets. You'll always get a chance to see the team.
The Detroit Red Wings are really, really good at hockey, and if the other plan is voted in, it'll likely just be a one-for-one swap of Winnipeg and Detroit. That doesn't make any sense, putting the Red Wings in the Southeast Division, but swapping the lowly Atlanta Thrashes/Winnipeg Jets with the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings?
Yeah, uh, you can keep them, Nashville and Columbus.
Under this new format, the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will be intra-conference. The top four teams in each conference would make the postseason, seeded just like the playoffs are now.
1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3.
A year ago, that would have meant Washington vs. NY Rangers and Flyers vs. Pittsburgh in Round 1. The winners would face off in the second round for the Patrick title (or whatever the names wind up being), which means that those meaningless Atlantic Division banners we have now would be a thing of the past.
The winner of each conference would advance to a Final Four, re-seeded once we get to this round, and from there we would work our way to a Stanley Cup Final and a Stanley Cup Champion. Yes, this also means that we could see, for example, a Flyers vs. Sabres or Flyers vs. Bruins Stanley Cup Final again. That would be awesome.
So, what do you say? Would you prefer this radical change in NHL realignment, or would you prefer the other option on the table, which is just a one-for-one swap of Detroit to the East and Winnipeg to the West?