In the past couple of weeks two of North America’s big four sports leagues have announce or are rumoured to be thinking of proposals to the structure of their league. The NHL followed Major League Baseball in bring up a proposal to alter the structure and fixtures to ensure a fairer season.
The NHL’s reported idea is to make 4 large divisions based on geography namely the east, central, midwest and west with the top 4 in each qualifying for playoffs. The first round and second round matches would be inter divisional. The third roun would be between the east and central and the west and midwest for the conference finals with the stanley being decided between the winners of those on the traditional east v west lines.
The possible make up would look something like this.
Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils
Toronto Maple Leafs
Detroit Red Wings
St Louis Blues
Columbus Blue Jackets
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
These possible divisional matchups do cause two problems. Firstly that of rivalry. Boston would lose its divisional rivalry with Montreal although would gain a match up with the Rangers. Chicago would lose any original six match up within it’s division and conference leaving it somewhat isolated. Whilst in any effort to keep the two Alberta sides in the same division would me that either Vancouver or Winnipeg would miss out on another Canadian side in their division. Although these seem a big loss the plans are that in a 82 game season sides would play the other divisions home and away and thus ensuring any rival could continue. Also it would allow Detroit to rekindle its ancient rivaly with Toronto.
The second issue is that of fairness. The MLB is interested in changing its structure to two even conferences instead of a 16 – 14 national/ american league split so that all side have the same chance of making the playoffs. However this new NHL structure creates this problem. Sides in 2 divisions would need a better record than only 3 teams instead of 4 like the other two divisions.
There is of course a way round this. Have two new NHL teams. Quebec and Seattle anyone!
These two cities would fit in nicely. Quebec in the Central Division and Seattle in the west and both have been strongly linked with the NHL throughout the Winnipeg/ Atlanta/ Phoenix debacle.
Whilst it may look as tho the central division is the hardest to get out of every division has for 4 teams that made the 2011 playoffs.
As long as those 2 new teams come along wherever they may be based. This could be a system that works with the rivalries within the division being aided by the home and away series with those outside of the division and also the added spice of divisional matchups in the early rounds of the play offs. After all who didnt enjoy the Boston – Montreal series this spring?