Monday, February 25, 2013

New Realignment Pitch: Stuff To Like, Stuff To Dislike

Finally, after a month and a half or so of wondering whether the league was ever going to start talking about realignment again after the NHL announced the end of the Lockout... the NHL finally seems to have given fans an answer.

After the first version was shot down by the NHLPA, the league released the proposal Saturday that actually moves both Detroit and Columbus East while keeping intact the four-conference proposal the league had originally pitched.

What does it all mean for Columbus?

For one, the Blue Jackets to get away from the murderous prospects of playing six games against the likes of Central Division foes like Detroit, Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis. That's probably enough to make any long-suffering Blue Jackets fan happy.

Of course, there are also the murderous prospects of playing teams like the Penguins and Capitals six times a year. The Rangers are no slouches, either... at least not yet. It's reasonable to expect a decline by New Jersey after Martin Brodeur retires. Carolina and the New York Islanders could make playoff pushes interesting.

But essentially, the Atlantic Division will bring on Columbus from the Central and Washington and Carolina from the Southleast. Not bad. Hellaciously competitive, though, and Columbus does not get an easy ride here, by any means.

Wings fans will be ecstatic, because their team more or less does get an easy ride, by comparison. The Northeast Division brings aboard Detroit, and then the Panthers and Bolts from the Southleast. Detroit can roll over most of those teams in their sleep. Sad, but true.

And infuriating. And ridiculous.

"We twavel so muuuuuch. We don't wanna twavel so much. We should be in the Eastern Confwence so we don't have to twavel," says the team that made the Final six times and won four Cups in a 17-year span -- as a member of the Western Conference.

You travel just fine, Detroit. But... you get your way if this gets approved. So the good news is that you'll finally shut the hell up already.

The changes in the realignment out west are less drastic, other than the two conferences going from eight teams apiece to seven. The former "Conference B" takes Colorado out of "Conference A" to make up for losing both Detroit and Columbus.

I'm guessing we're under the assumption that the who-plays-whom-and-how-many-times structure in the eight-team conferences, and the top-four-in-each-conference Playoff format from the previous proposal remains intact, or the NHL and NHLPA are discussing something else in that realm.

Overall, the geographic arrangement in the East makes sense, except maybe for the Florida teams. Still, all 16 teams in the Eastern Time Zone will have a little less jet lag-related wear-and-tear over the course of the season.

The only other sticking point seems to be that the fate of the Phoenix Coyotes is no more certain than it was at the last proposal 14-15 months ago. Is the league that sure that the 'Yotes are staying? Or are they just really confident that if/when they move, they will wind up in Seattle (and stay in that conference) or Kansas City (and they do a quick switch, maybe swapping Colorado back to that Pacific-ish Conference)? Maybe there's something they know that we don't... or something Gary Bettman doesn't know that he just won't admit.

You know me... I'm leaning toward the latter.

Impact on Columbus? The regional rivalries should prove interesting, and potentially help raise Columbus' profile from a TV standpoint. The road to the Playoffs does not get much easier, but we'll see some competitive hockey, for sure. I hate the sweet deal Detroit got, but Columbus only has to worry about itself and controlling its own postseason destiny. And this move does help, if only just a little.

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