So, as you probably have heard, the NHL’s Board of Governors have decided to realign the NHL’s divisions. It had been talked about for quite a while now by the media and as of Monday it came to fruition. Now, it’s not officially official yet because the NHLPA has to sign off on it, but it’s widely accepted that the ‘PA will sign off to accept the new divisions.
I, for one, like the new alignment. For starters it gives the Maple Leafs a better chance to make it into the playoffs having 4 playoff spots among 7 teams. In the old/current format some teams would have made the playoffs in this format that didn’t in years past (example: Toronto Maple Leafs, 2007). Another reason is they play the tougher Eastern Conference teams less like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as in the new format other than teams in your own division, you only play teams twice. This also means they play the lesser Western Conference teams (Anaheim, Columbus, etc.) more (by one more game). The weirdest part, for me, is that you play every team twice. In the current format you play your divisional teams 6 times each (3 home, 3 away), 4 times for the other teams in the Conference (2 home, 2 away), and once for every Western Conference team. Now, other than the teams in your division, you play every team twice no matter where they are. Just something odd for me.
Since there are no real names for the divisions (as of now it’s A, B, C, and D) I’ll use names I think would be suitable.
The new divisions are as follows:
Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and Vancouver Canucks. I chose “Gretzky” because he played for two of the teams in this division.
Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, and Winnipeg Jets. I chose “Hossa” because Marian Hossa played for 3 of the franchises in this division (played for Thrashers, now Jets).
Northeast + Florida Division:
Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs. I chose “Northeast + Florida” because it’s the same teams from the Northeast division just adding the two state of Florida teams.
Winter Classic Division:
Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals. I chose “Winter Classic” because between the 7 teams in this division they combine for 6 Winter Classic appearances.
Whether Gary Bettman uses these names remains to be seen, but that is how the divisions will be until the Coyotes move eventually.
As you saw, the Leafs will be in a division with their current divisional opponents plus some extra sunshine trips. Now, what does this mean for the Leafs you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.
First, as I said earlier, this makes it statistically easier for the Leafs to make the playoffs as before it was 5 open spots for 10 teams. Now, it’s 4 open spots for 7 teams. As of right now, the Leafs would be 3rd in the division and still in a playoff spot. But, if you think about it the Leafs should be able to make it more consistently in the new format than the old one. This does seem to be a very close division in terms of strength of teams. But, the Leafs match-up well against at least 3 of the other 6 teams (Montreal, Ottawa and Tampa Bay. Since they haven’t played the new Buffalo team, I haven’t gotten a chance to asses them yet).
Also, if the Leafs can scratch out at least a win or two vs. the Bruins that should help because they can’t lose to the Bruins 6 times every year, right? But, if they can go 4-2 or 5-1 or even 3-3 vs. the other divisional teams that gives them a pretty good shot at the playoffs because of how many games you play in the division.
So, overall, not only do I like the new realignment for the league. I like the new realignment for the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances.