On Monday, the NHL announced a new plan for realignment that features four conferences and eliminates the six current divisions that are in place. The plan is set to make up for the move of The Winnipeg Jets (from Atlanta last offseason) and create conferences that make sense geographically. This new realignment could be set into motion as soon as next season.
Under the proposed rules, each team will have a home-and-home series with every team in the league, but since conferences will be smaller, fewer games will be played out of the geographical area (in theory, as this doesn’t hold true for every single team).
The Predators will be in a conference with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, St. Louis and Winnipeg. This should cut back on the number of games that Nasvhille will be playing on the west coast, which could have at least some effect on the season. Fewer awkward travel dates, games that start two hours later than they normally would in Nashville, and consecutive games in different time zones could directly translate to fresh legs and increased energy on road trips. Once again, though, this is all speculative and “in theory.”
One thing going against the Predators, at least in the near future, is that most of the teams in their new conference are very, very good. This doesn’t concern me too much though, because with a couple of exceptions, these things are ususally cyclical. Nashville isn’t exactly having an outstanding year, but there is still a lot of time left in this season, and then next season, to worry about how the standings will shake out at the end of next season.
Some teams, particularly those who may end up actually traveling MORE, will be opposed to this realignment. Personally, I think it’s good because: 1.) It shows that the NHL is trying. The system in place wasn’t perfect, although it wasn’t necessarily bad, and so (as any professional sports league should) they are striving to make the overall product of the league better (this is particularly significant with the BCS system looking terrible for the 295th year in a row) and 2.) It seems like it will benefit the Predators and they happen to be my favorite team, so I’m in. I’m a total homer, a shameless homer really, and as long as it benefits my team, I’m good.
Below is the full list of each conference, named by a letter (this isn’t final, hopefully they can come up with some really cool names):
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
It seems like most all of the significant rivalries will remain intact, which is critical for the NHL to keep the die-hard fans happy, while still changing things up enough to possibly spark some more outside interest among casual fans.
Now, if we can just find a way to get rid of shootouts…