Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Not That Hard: GTOG Realigns the NHL

By Finesse

The fallout from the NHL's proposed realignment is very noisy.  Reactions are all over the map.  Here is the proposal, via Puck Daddy.

According to Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports, each team will play every team outside the division twice (once home, once away).  If the Pens are in a 7-team division, that means 46 out of division games, and 36 in division games (so the Pens would play each team in the division 6 times -- the same as now).  There would be a return to divisional playoffs, where 4 teams from each division would play each other for the right to play the conference's other division winner in the conference finals.  Think Patrick Division.  Pensblog did an excellent analysis of this yesterday, but today, we've got a different plan.

Find out GTOG's proposal after the jump...

There are some assumptions that are accepted as underlying truths, we think, for no apparent reason.

First, Detroit seems to be the most eager to get out of the Western Conference.  There were even reports that Bettman promised he'd move Detroit east once the Atlanta-Winnipeg move was finalized.  We understand Detroit's frustrations with playing in the Western Conference -- if we had to watch, let alone play, thirty 10pm games every year, we'd be pissed too.  But if Detroit wants to move East, then we say goodbye to Wings-Hawks, Wings-Blues, and Wings-Avs rivalries.  Can't have it both ways.  Accordingly, we are not concerned about Detroit's rivalries, and apparently Mike Ilitch isn't that concerned either.

Second, there is no law of nature that says Philadelphia has to be geographically grouped with the New York City metropolitan area.  We understand that Philly is 90 miles from New York.  But it's also about a 34 minute flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.  In the age of chartered jets, it's an enormous reach to say that travel between Pittsburgh and Philly is any more taxing than travel from Philly to New York.  Based on nothing but our own experiences, we'd even bet that flying from Philly to New York takes longer given the crowded skies and airports in New York.

The same goes for Washington.  You literally don't even have time to turn on your iPhone on a flight from Pittsburgh to Washington before they tell you to turn off all electronics.  When traveling by air, there is essentially zero difference in the distances between Washington-NY and Pittsburgh-NY.

Ovechkin: Will wear same outfit either way
So once you dispense with the I-95 Fallacy -- that Washington, Philly, and the three teams from New York must be together -- this is actually pretty easy to figure out.
Here's our proposal for the East, using Bettman's proposed realignment as a template.

Division I
Tampa Bay

Division II
New York Rangers
New York Islanders
New Jersey

Our rationale:

Geographically, it makes total sense.  If you took out a map and drew circles around the cities in each division, there would be no overlap.

Rivalry-wise, it preserves almost everything, and in fact may improve the situation. Pittsburgh keeps Philly in the division, and adds two more games per year against the Caps (plus much greater chances of meeting in the playoffs). Detroit also comes into the mix, and if you don't think that the Wings would instantly be as detestable as the Caps and/or Flyers, then you haven't been paying attention.  Sure, Carolina, Florida and Tampa aren't that exciting, but we're about getting wins, not about having brawls at Nassau Coliseum.  And ask the Pens players whether they'd rather spend a January road trip in Florida or in Ottawa-Toronto-Montreal.

Taking Talents to South Beach
The addition of the Caps and Wings to the division more than offsets the loss of the NY-area teams.  The Rangers are a nice rival, but neither team considers the other team to be that important.  The Devils and Islanders are boring.  This proposal also keeps the Boston-Toronto-Montreal rivalry, and adds the media-favorite Boston-NY rivalry.   If the NHL wants to get crazy and make the Eastern Conference with two 8-team divisions instead, then we would be more than happy to welcome Columbus to the mix.

There is no perfect solution. But under the GTOG plan, think of how many Ottawa-New York Islander games you have to look forward to.

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