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Vulgar Opinions: NHL Realignment (NSFW)

12/07/11
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I originally viewed the NHL’s realignment plan as a stupid mess that satisfied the small problem of not every team playing in every arena and in doing so caused several larger ones, but I might have been too hasty to judge.
Being able to see every team once a year may help draw in borderline fans that are just starting to get excited about hockey.  I wouldn’t know for sure because I do not give a shit.  Sure, I want to see every NHL team at some point, but I’m fine with that happening over several seasons, not RIGHT FUCKING NOW.  And what gets lost in this is that it actually gives in-conference fans LESS opportunities to see certain teams because they only stop by once a year instead of twice.  Why is no one talking about that?  (Okay, a few people are.)

One of my issues originally was not being able to play the pathetic sacks of crap from the Southeast as often, but since they moved Florida and Tampa Bay into the Northeast (and I’m so not buying that either of them will be good long term), that problem has been rectified slightly.  And seriously, how much does that Panthers team mirror their market?  A bunch of old castoffs from other places that have all congregated in Florida?  Brilliant.

It seems clear that the NHL wants to have something it can call its own while harkening back to tradition and the four conference playoff format certainly does that.  But I think it blows, if for no other reason than that it keeps the number of playoff teams from each conference rigid.  That just seems stupid.  It will get talked about.  It will matter.  Deserving teams will get squeezed out.  It will probably happen in year one, and then almost every single year after that.

At least under the old format, we got the eight best teams in each conference (though to be fair it still occasionally left deserving teams out when one conference was significantly stronger).  Sure the seeding might have been a little kooky if a particular division winner kind of sucked, but they still deserved to be in the mix.  I can’t wait until someone from an abysmal conference makes the playoffs with 80 points under the new rules.  Awesome.

The other thing that people are talking about is the uneven number of teams in each division which suggests (along with words from NHL brass) that there will be expansion in the near future.  (I told you fuckers so.)  Of course people are all up in arms about this, calling for contraction instead, and I admit I have been among them, but think of the big picture.  You’re a struggling sports league that gets 3rd-4th billing on TV and no one takes you seriously.  What does it say about you if you axe two teams?  Do you think that’s going to make it  easier to get a network/major cable TV deal?

A small problem in the short term is that the current new (how confusing) conference alignment only leaves space for two eastern expansion teams.  In my opinion, there is only room for one, in the Toronto area.  Of course the NHL can always move Detroit, Columbus, or Nashville to the east later.  My suggestion: give our conference the shit-ass expansion team or the shit-ass Blue Jackets.  Please.

Overall I give the NHL a B+ for effort in trying to set themselves apart from other leagues and harken back to tradition and a D- for execution because the issues are glaring.

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