Drawing The Line: Isles Will Move To "Conference D" Next Season
It wasn't news to anyone that the NHL would be setting up a new realignment plan for the 2012-2013 season. Plenty of speculation went into this idea as to how it would effect the current Eastern and Western Conferences. The Winnipeg Jets, although presently in the East, seemed to be a team that would make much more sense in the West. Rumors began to run that the Detroit Red Wings would move to the Eastern Conference, or even quite possibly the Nashville Predators.
The bigger question, and one that still looms over the hearts of many fans out in the desert, is whether or not the Phoenix Coyotes will still be in any Conference next year. They are currently in what seems to be the final year of their lease agreement after almost being relocated this past summer. There's still a good possibility that they might be relocated in the near future as well, but all of that remains in limbo as the 2012 season moves forward.
However, the NHL and it's Board of Governors could not wait to see what happens in Phoenix and passed a very dramatic change to the current alignment that awaits input from the NHLPA. The Eastern and Western Conferences will ultimately be removed next year; the standard two conferences that consist of 15 teams will become four conferences with either seven or eight teams in each one.
Conference A will consist of the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, L.A. Kings, Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks.
Conference B will be the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets.
Conference C will have the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
And lastly, Conference D will be made up of the present Atlantic Division, plus a few new faces with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes.
The names of these four Conferences will change, although they have yet to be determined.
Each team in the league will play each other twice; once at home and once on the road. Conference C and D will have each team play each other a total of six times, split between road and home games. The eight teamed Conferences have an annual rotation where teams will either play each other five or six times, with each respective team alternating that scheduling pattern per year.
It will be interesting to see how this pans out next season as it's going to be a major change to how the schedule is run for every team. Islanders fans already seem to be a little unhappy knowing that their team will be facing opponents like the Capitals more than four times a year. But I say this: you never know what a team will look like on a given year. Ovechkin and his crew of danglers will always be a challenge just based on their raw skill alone, but worry about the future when the time comes.
Playoff match-ups will be even more exciting, in my opinion. The top four teams in each Conference qualify for the playoffs, with the number one seed playing the number four and two playing three. The playoff trees would break down with the winners of eachConference meeting in the third round of the playoffs. The Stanley Cup Championship, just like it is done today, would see the winners of the third round.
The more interesting scenario will be to see how this plays out in regards to the Coyotes conflict out west and if any other teams change around the league. Although a lot of focus has been on the Yotes, there is still plenty of talk about other teams not being around for the long haul. Sad to say, the Islanders have been mentioned as one of them (but I still firmly believe, despite the stress and anxiety that I sometimes cause myself, that they will not be playing anywhere else besides Nassau County after 2015). But the Florida Panthers have had their name thrown out there as well as another struggling franchise that has almost always had difficulty entering the post-season.
What say you, Isles fans? What are your thoughts on the NHL's new realignment plan for the 2012-2013 season?