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Latest NHL Realignment Proposal Features Four Divisions, Playoff Wild Card Spots
Published February 27, 2013
PROS VS. CONS: USA TODAY's Kevin Allen writes of the NHL's proposed realignment, "The plus of this plan is it places Winnipeg in the West where it belongs and let's Detroit and Columbus join other Eastern time zone teams." But the "minus is the Eastern Conference has eight-team divisions and the Western Conference has seven-team divisions, and the idea that players wouldn't have an equal mathematical chance of making the playoffs is troublesome to the NHLPA." A divisional-based playoff with an unequal number of teams "is not unprecedented in NHL history." The league from '81-82 to '92-93 had "four playoff qualifiers coming out of both five- and six-team divisions." One reason the NHLPA "might be open to allowing the uneven numbers between the two conferences is that this might be the only way to get Columbus and Detroit in the East" (USA TODAY, 2/27). ESPN.com’s Craig Custance said of the proposed playoff format, “It’s still an advantage to be in the West.”
But the new plan still “doesn’t necessarily alleviate the concerns the players have” ("Hockey Today," ESPN2, 2/26). The GLOBE & MAIL's Sean Gordon writes, "It's hard to imagine some big-revenue teams won’t kick up a fuss at the competitive imbalance, and on the face of it, the plan makes no allowances for eventual franchise relocation or expansion to Quebec City and Southern Ontario." But at the same time, the new divisional line-up "would be a boon to prime-time television viewers -- a calculation that is top-of-mind for the NHL" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/27).
TURNING UP THE DRAMA: The NATIONAL POST's Bruce Arthur writes the proposed playoff format would "create more annual blood feuds," which can be "a double-edged sword: on the one hand, seeing the same teams over and over could eventually dull the mouth-foaming hatred that certain fans harbour for other teams, but on the other hand the blood feuds could eventually reach the point where someone pulls out an actual double-edged sword, which based on the universal in-arena reaction to fights would be a big hit." But whenever the NHL talks realignment "you have to treat it like a shell game, waiting to be solved" (NATIONAL POST, 2/27).