Monday, 5 December 2011
12/16/11 Realigning Expectations
Thanks to the tireless efforts of a team of graphic designers, I am pleased to give you the map of the NHL's new Four Conferences. Everyone, say hello to your new rivals.
If you don't know your geography (hands up if you know exactly where all these cities are in your head) the map helps to show why the Conferences are laid out like they are. It's all neat and tidy out West and then it gets a little funny looking out East, but that's the way the decision makers decided to do it so that Boston, Montreal and Toronto would stay together and so would Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Washington gets lumped in with Pittsburgh there as well, which will make for some marquee matchups come playoff time.
As for the Oilers, this is not good news. The road to the playoffs is going to be paved through 5 playoff teams from last year. Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, Phoenix and Los Angeles were ranked 1st, 5th, 9th, 11th, and 12th in the entire NHL last season and under the new system at least one of them will be guaranteed to miss the playoffs.
15 of the top 30 scorers in the NHL from last year will be located in the new Conference of which the Oilers will be a part. If Edmonton is going to compete they will have to hope to add a few names of their own to that list.
The trouble is that the Oilers can be a very good team and still miss under this system, which isn't good for a team that is at the tail end of a rebuild. It's safe to say that for the foreseeable future Vancouver, San Jose and Los Angeles will be all but assured of a playoff spot under almost any system. That leaves exactly one opening for five teams.
This development may cause the Oilers to take a step backward in their development next year. Edmonton will get San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix twice more than they do now. The Oilers should be ahead of Phoenix by next year, but those other two are a different story. Not only that, but under this system every team will play at least two games against every other team in the league (home and away). That means the Oilers will now get powerhouses Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington twice a year.
There's always the chance that the Phoenix Coyotes will need to be moved out of their current home and possibly to another Conference. Some of the candidate cities:
Seattle: The Conferences would remain the same.
Kansas City: A team would move out of Conference B (the red circle one). Possibly Winnipeg would join Edmonton's Conference.
Quebec City: Who the heck knows. Either there would be a whole new realignment, or the Conference in black would have eight teams. The latter would be the fairest way.
Vegas: Conferences remain the same.
Undoubtedly there will be plenty of pros and cons to the new system that we can't even see yet, but it will be interesting to watch it unfold. It's a whole new landscape and the shifting may not be over yet.