When I put together my second round of thoughts on the NHL's planned 2013-14 realignment, I wasn't trying to be optimistic. Re-reading them in the context of the series of tweets about the realignment plan by TSN's Bob McKenzie today makes me think I was being naive, however. Add in reports from ESPN's Pierre LeBrun and it doesn't get better.
The tweets, for context...
Top 3 teams in each of two 8-team East conferences make the playoffs. Two wild cards from remaining 10 East teams also make the playoffs.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 26, 2013
Top 3 teams in each of two 7-team West conferences make playoffs. Two wild cards from remaining 8 West teams also make the playoffs.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 26, 2013
That sure sounds like two conferences with two divisions each, not four conferences. And LeBrun confirms, though he and McKenzie disagree on which naming convention for the divisions id the first choice.
According to NHL memo sent to 30 teams, no longer is the idea to go to 4 conferences, but rather 2 conferences with two divisions each— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 26, 2013
The Eastern Conference would have the Atlantic and Central divisions, the Western Conference would have the Mid-West and Pacific divisions— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 26, 2013
OK, new realignment terminology. We're back to four divisions (Pacific, Central, Northeast and Atlantic) and two conferences (East and West)— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 26, 2013
And a unique idea that would have made for an interesting set of possibilities in the third and fourth rounds is gone.
Don't get me wrong, I still like the realignment. Greedily, all I wanted out of realignment was more Original Six matchups for Detroit, with more games in the Eastern Time Zone as a secondary goal. I think the playoff system is ridiculous, though.
I've said before that the regular season and getting into the playoffs is about how high you finish, not how far from the bottom that is. There is no need for a wild card because fourth place in a seven-team division is the same places down from the top as fourth place in an eight-team division.
If you're accounting for disparity between divisions by allowing for a crossover (and that's what this is, not a true wild card), why not account for disparity across conferences as well? Because that would be hard.
The way I see it, there should be either no wild card or there should be four wild cards shared across all divisions. If the #5, #6, and #7 teams in the Pacific are better than the #4s in the rest of the league, why should only the #5 get a chance to cross over?
The crossover is an overreaction to a problem that doesn't exist, though. The divisions are not created equal. The conferences are not created equal. The amount of talent isn't the same, the amount of travel isn't the same, and - yes - the amount of teams isn't the same. That's not a problem. Adding the crossover is an attempt to fix what isn't broken.
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