Movin & Groovin
On Saturday, Hockey Night in Canada revealed a new realignment proposal being pushed hard by Gary Bettman.
48 hours later, it’s been approved by the NHL Board of Governors and the league next year will look like this:
The league will now have four conferences. Each team will play a home-and-home against non-conference opponents and play the remainder within the conference.
The top four teams in each conference will square off in two playoff rounds to determine a conference champ.
These four conference champions will then be reseeded and square off for the Stanley Cup.
There’s a lot to digest here, so let’s look at 5 things that stand out for the Vancouver Canucks:
Considering the Vancouver Canucks now only have to visit the former Central teams just once a year, travel times will be reduced considerably.
Where once far away Minnesota was a division rival, the Vancouver Canucks can now play all their conference games in just two time zones (plus, a lot less Wild games!).
It would have been nice to find a way to get Winnipeg into the conference to get more than two games a year against the Western Canadian teams, but in the end there was little geographic justification.
Looking at the eight teams the Canucks will now square off against, you have to like their playoff chances. San Jose and Vancouver, the two Western Conference finalists, are the favourites while Los Angeles isn’t lurking far behind them.
The rest of the division shouldn’t be too much of a threat unless the Oilers put it all together.
The Canucks managed to join a conference with all the Northwest teams except the division leader Minnesota and all the Pacific teams except their division leader Dallas.
If these standings were in play today, the Canucks would be atop the conference.
Speaking of the playoffs, this is going to create some fantastic rivalries.
The Sharks and Canucks have played each other close for the better part of the decade and their playoff matchup last year has only stoked the fires. Playing the Sharks six times a year and butting heads in the playoffs should only bring out even more hatred.
Same goes for Los Angeles, another recent playoff conquest, and Anahiem, who just seem to hate everyone.
This also means more chances at playing Calgary or Edmonton in the playoffs and all the fun that brings. In a couple of years, the Canucks could have some inter-conference rivalries on par with the current bloodfeud with the Blackhawks.
4. Cali Trips
In recent years Vancouver fans have discovered that its cheaper and a lot more fun to fly down to Southern California and check out a Canucks road game than pay for a home ticket off a scalper. The Canucks even offered a VIP travel package this year for this exact purpose.
Now these trips south will be increased, lending the possibility that the Canucks could be playing their majority of their road games with a couple thousand of their fans in the building.
We’ll see how long a place like San Jose or Los Angeles tolerates that, especially when the teams start meeting in the playoffs with some regularity.
5. Epic Playoff Pairings
Finally, because the teams will most likely be reseeded after the Conference Champions are determined, this opens the possibility for a Stanley Cup Final with two teams from the present Western or Eastern Conference. Imagine Boston/Pittsburgh, or San Jose/Detroit, or……Vancouver/Chicago.
Their first round matchup last year was so great it felt like a Stanley Cup Final.
Now imagine it actually was.