Dan's View From Center Ice - 3/8/2013

Friday, 03.08.2013 / 7:20 PM
Dan Rusanowsky  - Sharks Radio, Play-by-Play Broadcaster

So, what do you think of realignment, and what should the schedule look like?


WESTERN CONFERENCE EASTERN CONFERENCE
Pacific Division Atlantic Division
San Jose Sharks Carolina Hurricanes
Anaheim Ducks Columbus Blue Jackets
Calgary Flames New Jersey Devils
Edmonton Oilers New York Islanders
Los Angeles Kings New York Rangers
Phoenix Coyotes Philadelphia Flyers
Vancouver Canucks Pittsburgh Penguins
  Washington Capitals
   
Midwest Division Central Division
Chicago Blackhawks Boston Bruins
Colorado Avalanche Buffalo Sabres
Dallas Stars Detroit Red Wings
Minnesota Wild Florida Panthers
Nashville Predators Montreal Canadiens
St. Louis Blues Ottawa Senators
Winnipeg Jets Tampa Bay Lightning
  Toronto Maple Leafs

First impressions are pretty good, even though there is a technicality surrounding the relative difficulty for teams to qualify for the playoffs in the East vs. the West. I say that is made up for by the difference in travel, but there is also the reality that there are more teams in the Eastern Time Zone than in the others. It’s essentially organized around time zones and geographical rivalries as best as possible.

From the Sharks’ point of view, it ups the games against Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver, and is a sort of modern-day re-creation of the old Smythe Division, which had San Jose, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Calgary. Yes, that’s right, the Sharks used to be in that division, way back in the Cow Palace days.

Now, let’s look at what the possibilities for the schedule are:

SOLUTION I: CURRENTLY PROPOSED

Conference Division Games Intra-Conference Other Conference Total
Western Conference 5 vs. 5 teams=25      
  4 vs. 1 team = 4 3 vs. 7 teams =21 2 vs. 16 teams = 32 82
         
Eastern Conference 5 vs. 2 teams=10      
  4 vs. 5 teams=20 3 vs. 8 teams=24 2 vs. 14 teams=28 82

That seems as if it will work out, percentages of qualifying for the playoffs notwithstanding. But here is another possible wrinkle:

SOLUTION II: MORE DIVISION PLAY

Conference Division Games Intra-Conference Other Conference Total
Western Conference 6 vs. 6 teams=36 2 vs. 7 teams =14 2 vs. 16 teams = 32 82
         
Eastern Conference 6 vs. 3 teams=18      
  5 vs. 4 teams=20 2 vs. 8 teams=16 2 vs. 14 teams=28 82

PLAYOFFS

What is supposedly on the table is a system where the top 3 teams in each division are guaranteed a playoff spot, leaving 4 positions to be filled by a wild-card system. It would be the 2 remaining teams in each conference with the best record, regardless of division. No, it isn’t perfect, but it seems to work.

Using last season’s standings, here is how the first round of the playoffs would have scoped out:

Western Conference Eastern Conference
#8 Calgary vs. #1 Vancouver #8 Washington vs. #1 NY Rangers
#7 Los Angeles vs. #2 St. Louis #7 New Jersey vs. #2 Detroit
#6 San Jose vs. #3 Nashville #6 Florida vs. #3 Pittsburgh
#5 Phoenix vs. #4 Chicago #5 Philadelphia vs. #4 Boston

I made the assumption that the top 3 teams in the divisions get guaranteed spots and the wild card teams, even if they had more points, would be seeded lower. Ottawa, who made the playoffs last year, would have been bumped by incoming Detroit, and that would have left a space for Calgary to jump in, a fact that surely would bring different reactions from each of these cities.

All seems okay for the time being. The new schedule and division setup appears set to be re-adjustable, if there are any franchise movements which have been rumored or any expansion sites which could be granted. But here is my one continued request for change, and it is in the playoffs:

What I’d like to ultimately see is the opportunity for any team to play any other in the Stanley Cup Final. I’d love to see the game grow stronger in long-standing cities, and having a Boston-New York or Philadelphia-Pittsburgh or Montreal-Toronto final would certainly enhance that.

But such a possibility would also grow the game in places like California, where a San Jose-Los Angeles final would be front and center in a state where the population exceeds that of Canada, and where more and more high level kids are picking up the game because of the efforts of the three NHL franchises there.

How would this goal be accomplished? Answer: either retire the Prince of Wales Trophy and Clarence Campbell Bowl to the Hall of Fame, or award it to the Conference points champion in the regular season. No player on the ice really wants to accept these trophies, anyway.

When you get to four remaining teams in the NHL, re-seed, based on points and tiebreakers. Call it the “NHL Semi-Final,” just like they used to do. Most of the time, you wouldn’t see much of a difference, but the possibility would be there to have one of those regional or traditional rivalries in the Stanley Cup Final.

Yes, there might be more travel involved in some of those final four series, but from a Western Conference standpoint, that would be an equalizer to an advantage that the other conference has all season long. Moreover, it would be good for the game to see these exciting matchups.

All in all, whether the playoffs ever morph into my idea or not, it’s still very exciting to comprehend the possibilities, and as the years go on, we’ll see just how wonderfully exciting this game can be.

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