I always assumed that NHL General Manager meetings were like Interfraternity conferences, where all the men tell their wives they’re going to be in dry seminars all day and then rent out the top floor of a hotel and party the weekend away. But, it would appear that things actually get done at these meetings: yesterday, the NHL GMs approved a drastic divisional realignment that would dissolve the 6 current divisions in favour of 4 more geographically appropriate groupings.
Needless to say, this completely changes the landscape of both the NHL regular season and playoffs. It’s kind of a big deal. But what does this mean for the Canucks and their fans? Like the Provincial Convention of Professional Conmen*, there are plenty of pros and cons.
PRO - Eastern Conference teams will visit once a season. West coast hockey fans have long griped about the fact that many of the game’s biggest names (Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin) only come around once every three years. They need not gripe any longer. Under the realignment format, every NHL team will play a home and home, meaning Canuck fans will get an opportunity to see every NHL superstar in Rogers Arena each year. Hooray!
CON - That includes the Carolina Hurricanes. Let’s be honest. While the complaint about the rarity with which we see the sexy players is a valid one, there are many other teams in the East besides those which employ Crosby and Ovechkin. Several of these teams are what the kids call “cruddy”, and we’ll have to see them more often too. Are you really that excited about two dispirited games with the Carolina Hurricanes or the Florida Panthers? As for me, I prefer to see Florida’s stars when they’re traded to Vancouver.
PRO – The travel is a little more balanced out. Another major complaint of teams in the West? The gruelling travel schedule. While many of the Eastern teams are a short jaunt from one another, even the NHL cities closest to Vancouver are quite a ways away. It’s been argued that the extra travel for Western Conference teams adds to fatigue late in the postseason. With the Eastern teams coming out this way a lot more often, that argument should be put to bed.
CON - The Canucks will travel East more often too. There are a number of good reasons to celebrate the Eastern teams coming West, but Canuck games in the East often cause headaches for fans. More games will have a 4pm puck drop, which is always annoying. That’s nap time. And for people that don’t work from home, that’s, y’know, work time.
PRO - We will rarely see the Minnesota Wild. All that said, I will gladly take every negative element to more cross-continent games if it means fewer games with the Minnesota Wild. The Wild are now an out-of-conference opponent, meaning we will see them only twice a year, as opposed to six bloody times. This is the proest pro of all. A playoff matchup is highly unlikely as well, since it could only happen in the third round. Huzzah!
CON - So long, Chicago/Vancouver rivalry. The connest con? After climaxing in last year’s playoffs, the brilliant rivalry between the Blackhawks and Canucks has just reached its refractory period. Like Minnesota, the Blackhawks will also be moving to another conference. Beginning next year, it will be impossible for the Canucks and Blackhawks to play each other 10 or more times, as they have the past three seasons. The animosity is sure to cool. Considering this has become the NHL’s best rivalry, it may be the biggest loss of realignment.
PRO - Awesome new rivalries are on the way. When you’re finished pouring a forty for the rivalry with Chicago, please recall that it wasn’t that long ago that the Canucks’ best rivalry was with the Calgary Flames. What changed? The Flames stopped being competitive. Meanwhile, the Canucks endured multiple playoff matchups with a team that was. Bearing that in mind, it won’t be too long before another team fills Chicago’s place in our hearts the same way. Vancouver and San Jose are going to have to go through one another every year now, and the seeds of dislike are already there. The Kings and the Canucks don’t quite get on. Even the Oilers are beginning to get good, and once they are, that rivalry is going to heat up. There are all sorts of possibilities in the new 8-team conference.
CON - The 8-team conference. Speaking of, the new conference format creates two 8-team conference and two 7-team conferences, with four from each conference making the playoffs. This means that the teams in the 8-team conferences will have to crawl over one extra franchise to get into the playoffs, and the Canucks are in one of those conferences. Still, I’ve always hated people who gripe about the rules for making the postseason. If you aren’t one of the top teams in your conference you hardly deserve to be there anyway; you were only included to fill a quota. In that sense, nothing has changed: to make the playoffs, you have to be one of the best teams. Sure, in the 8-team conference you have to be better than more, but you’re supposed to be better than most.
PRO - The first two rounds of the playoffs are going to be intense. As much as I enjoy watching the Canucks take on an unfamiliar opponent every now and then, the most enjoyable playoff series are between two teams with a history, and the new playoff format ensures that the first two rounds will always feature teams with the history. No more yawn-inducing series with the Nashville Predators. These affairs are going to be battles.
So what am I missing, Canuck fans? What do you like and dislike about the new realignment?
*While there is no such convention, doesn’t a Pro-Con-Pro-Con sound like a ton of fun?Tags: Blackhawks, pros and cons, realignment, Rivalry