A further look at realignment
Some interesting comments last night on the NHL’s realignment. I’ll stick with the theory that, looking only at the Kings, the change is basically a wash in terms of travel. The “winners,’’ it would seem, are the Central teams that should now have easier travel, and that was essentially the main point of realignment, to try to appease teams such as Columbus, Dallas and Detroit.
In terms of an “East Coast bias,’’ a big part of the problem is simple geography. There is a large number of teams bunched up in the Northeast part of the continent, and very few along the West Coast. There’s almost nothing that is going to change that, unless the NHL disregards geography altogether and mixes West, Central and East teams in the same conference. Other than that, the Northeast teams are always going to have an inherent travel advantage.
It would have been nice, though, if the teams that already enjoy a significant travel advantage didn’t also have an easier path to the playoffs. Consider the Kings and the New York Rangers. The Kings will have to finish ahead of at least four teams to make the playoffs. The Rangers only have to beat out three. The Kings (and Ducks) have three teams in their conference that are more than 1,000 miles away. None of the Rangers’ conference opponents are more than 450 miles away. This is fair? And that’s not to single out the Rangers. It’s just one example. And yes, the Northeast teams will travel more than they currently do, but their current travel schedule is a farce compared to teams in other regions.
On the other hand, you can also see where the NHL is leaving itself a Phoenix Option. Let’s say, hypothetically, the Coyotes move to Quebec. Then the Kings could end up in a seven-team conference — but with increased travel — and one of the two Eastern conferences would pick up an eighth team.
Finally, what will the four conferences be named? Do you think the NHL would accept, “Gretzky,’’ “Howe,’’ “Orr’’ and “Mikus’’ as suggestions?