What Does NHL Realignment Mean for the Detroit Red Wings


At first glance, realignment in the NHL is going to be great for the Red Wings.  Well, even beyond first glance, it’s going to be pretty awesome.  I would like to add another perspective though.  Basically, what an additional alternative would have included. Though I think the 4 conferences are good, you still need to consider the easy/quick fix.

The main option that was jilted at the alter would have been to simply move the Red Wings to the East (probably to the Northeast), move Winnipeg to the Northwest, transplant Minnesota in the Central, and finish by dropping the Bruins down to the Southeast.  One way or the other, the Detroit Red Wings were going to get themselves closer to home more often.

They have been pushing for a move to the Eastern Conference for as long as I can remember.  The problem is, I don’t think the NHL wanted to break up the divisions they have in the East (look at the regions if you don’t believe that).  But let’s face it, how do you explain the Wings going into the Southwest Division, when Nashville fits in perfectly.  You can’t, so the NHL didn’t try.

So it came up with the next best thing.  It took a crayon and divided the NHL into quads, and that’s how we got the following.

Region ARegion BRegion CRegion D
New JerseyBuffaloColumbusCalgary
New York IslandersFloridaDallasColorado
New York RangersMontrealDetroitEdmonton
PhiladelphiaOttawaMinnesotaLos Angeles
PittsburghTampa BayNashvillePhoenix
WashingtonTorontoSt. LouisSan Jose

Personally, I do like it.  And honestly, I think I like it more than a straight move to the East.  A straight move East would have likely kept the schedule the same.  If the Wings move East, sure they see probably two original six teams 6 times, while seeing two others 4 times.  But the cost would be the Chicago Blackhawks.

Assuming the “Easy Fix” of the Wings going East, they might go a year without seeing them, and then only play them on the road for a year.  Again, this assumes the NHL doesn’t change the scheduling format.  Yes, you could probably take solace in the fact you’d get a lot of New York, Montreal, Toronto, and Boston (and the Pens and Flyers), but I hate the Hawks so much that I don’t want to lose them.

The regional approach brings in every team to the Joe, which I love.  Sure we don’t get Toronto two times a year. We do get them once, which is a clear improvement over the current situation.  Again though, will you sacrifice Toronto once to avoid extra trips to California and western Canada?  Absolutely. That’s been the biggest reason for the desired move out of the West.

So the schedule is basically a home and home with everyone out of your region, and a 5 or 6 game series with everyone in your region.  Again, obviously, we’d rather see Montreal and Toronto six times instead of the Wild and the Jets.  But, considering the way the map looks, we are in the right place, so I can deal with it.

On a scheduling front, I could see where some teams would be angry.  The two Florida teams got put with three Canadian teams, Boston, and Buffalo.  All of those teams are North of the teams in Region A.  Yeah…what?  This is why I say they didn’t want to change the divisions in East…because when it comes down to it, they didn’t.

I heard an argument that the western Canadian teams should be upset because they have to play every team on the road.  That means trips to every Region 3 and 4 city.  Is there really a big difference between flying to Detroit twice, versus once to Detroit and once to Buffalo for instance?  I don’t see it.

The other reason to love realignment is the playoff seeding.  How do you like the idea of never having to go further west than Dallas or Winnipeg on a run to the Cup?  Sounds good doesn’t it?  Well, it’s now possible.

The first and second rounds of the playoffs are played within the region.  So, for instance, let’s say that region C finishes the following:

  1. Detroit
  2. Chicago
  3. Dallas
  4. Minnesota
  5. Nashville
  6. St. Louis
  7. Columbus
  8. Winnipeg

In the first round of the playoffs, Detroit would have home ice over Minnesota while Chicago would host Dallas in a potential game 7.  In round two, it would be the Hawks and the Wings.  How do 8:30 start times and hour and a half (at most) flight times sound?  Pretty awesome.

Now, the NHL hasn’t said how they are going to handle the final four.  Let’s just say it’s by total points in regular season.  So if the Wings advance from region 3 with the most points, and Carolina is the region 1 winner but had the least regular season points, our “Conference Final” would be in Raleigh.  Where do I sign!?!

Granted, if the Wings were simply moved into the East, they would be in the same time zone until the Cup Finals, but again, you can’t always get what you want.  Sure that would be great.  Again though, you’d still have to explain how the Red Wings were in theSoutheast OR how Columbus is still in the Western Conference.  Good luck.

Of course, who knows how long this version of realignment will stick.  It seems as if the NHL changes things all of the time.  And they still have the biggest problem of uneven regions.  You know they aren’t going to contract two teams, so we are probably looking at adding two more squads to the league to have 4 eight-team regions.  If the NHL stays strong enough, I’m all for more teams and balance…and for staying closer to home.