By: Tom Dougherty | FF_TomDougherty
The NHL Board of Governors announced Monday that the league’s proposal of a four team conference system has been voted in, and is now awaiting the NHLPA approval to be implemented beginning next season.
In the new format, the Atlantic Division becomes a conference of seven teams with Washington and Carolina joining Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey and the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders.
The Northeast Division expands to include Florida and Tampa Bay; the Central Division includes Winnipeg, Dallas, Chicago, Nashville, Detroit, Columbus, Minnesota and St. Louis.
Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Colorado and Phoenix would make up a Western Conference.
The names of the conference have yet to be determined.
There will be changes to the schedule. Teams in the seven-team conference will play each other six times per season—three home, three away. The teams in the eight-team conferences will play each other five or six times based on a rotation every other season.
Each team will play each other outside of the conference twice a season. This gives fans the opportunity to see every team.
With the realignment, a new playoff system will be introduced that mimics the divisional playoff system the league had prior to 1993.
The top four teams in each conference would qualify for the playoffs where the No. 1 team plays the No. 4; the No. 2 plays the No. 3. Followed by another round to decide the Conference champion, and then a matchup of the four remaining champions to decide who plays for the Stanley Cup.
Re-seeding after each round will be taken into consideration in the next stage, but the league wants the general manager’s thoughts on that issue.
So what exactly does this mean for the Flyers?
It’s only going to get a lot tougher for them to snap their 36-year Stanley Cup drought with the additions of the Capitals and the Hurricanes in their conference.
Look, the Flyers already have to deal with the Penguins and the Rangers. Pittsburgh is not only the top dog in the division, but is the team to beat in the East this year. The Rangers are looking strong with Brad Richards, and this looks like a team that could play with anyone in the playoffs.
Take into consideration that the Devils have always been an organization that has been run smoothly, and have Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk on their roster. It’ll only be a matter of a couple years before they’re legitimate threat.
The Islanders have a ton of young talent, but never can put things together. Imagine this: the Islanders youth performs up to their capabilities. Yeah, the Islanders can be a good team.
Now add Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals into the equation. Do you see the problem there? That’s another animal the Flyers will have to fight off.
My point is this: if you think this realignment favors the orange and black, think again. It puts the Flyers in a conference with three beasts, a historically well-run organization, an Islanders team with young talent and a high sky, and Carolina.
It means that the Flyers will have to go through Pittsburgh, Washington and the Rangers before having a chance to play for in the conference championship round that decides who goes to the Cup.
That’s tough. Real tough.
I’m all for the realignment. It’s fair to everyone.
What I was most concerned about the realignment process was the possibility of the Flyers and the Penguins being separated. There’s no better rivalry in the NHL than the Flyers and the Penguins.
Ok, maybe the Bruins and Canadiens. Or the Red Wings and Blackhawks.
But they’re still intact.