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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Phoenix Restructures the NHL

I’ll say it. In my opinion, The Goldwater Institute is inspired by the late Senator Barry Goldwater’s stated proclivity if elected President back in the 60’s to ‘drop The Bomb’ on North Vietnam in order to end the Vietnam War. They, for whatever ACLUesque, Quixotic reason desire to force the Phoenix Coyotes to move, Arizonans to lose jobs and Hockey to suffer in a market where it is beginning to grow at all ages/levels. Their motto should be “I Threaten, Therefore I Am.”

That said, what if Phoenix moves to Winnipeg, possibly resurrecting the Jets of old? How should the NHL re-align? If there’s no getting around the loss of Phoenix to the Western Conference, what are our options here?

The Simple Geographic

One method is for the NHL to do their best to simplify realigning based on two things: geographic distance from other teams and the least disruption possible to current Divisional organization. That might look something like this:

Western Conference

Pacific Division: SJS, LAK, ANA, DAL, COL

Northwest Division: VAN, EDM, CGY, WIN, MIN

Central Division: No Change

Eastern Conference

Southeast Division: No Change

Atlantic Division: No Change

Northeast Division: No Change

This Course Of Action (COA) has the least disruption that could be imagined and is probably the preferred COA to execute.

While some folks may say, “COL = Pacific? What are you talking about?” Is DAL near the Pacific other than when it flies to California?

And some pundits south of the 49th Parallel may smugly offer, ‘With four Canadian teams in one division, that’ll give Canada a better shot at winning a Cup for a change…’ (Silly pundits – there is no conspiracy about who wins Lord Stanley’s Cup. It always goes to who wants it more.)

The Alternate Geographic

But what if the NHL likes their change shaken, not stirred? They could wind up doing the following:

Western Conference

Pacific Division: SJS, LAK, ANA, VAN, COL

Northern Division: EDM, CGY, WIN, MIN, CHI

Central Division: STL, NSH, CBJ, DET, TOR

Eastern Conference

Southern Division: DAL, ATL, TBL, FLA, CAR

Atlantic Division: WSH, PIT, PHI, NYR, NYI

Northeast Division: BUF, OTT, MTL, BOS, NJD

There are many reasons to say this wouldn’t be done.

Foremost is that it is more revolutionary than evolutionary and solid organizations usually stand upon a foundation grounded in the latter.

Additionally, several rivalries are broken up: TOR from the Eastern Conference; BUF-TOR; WSH out of the Southeast; NJD from the NY/NJ state-o-plex; and a basic unbalancing of Canadian teams between the Conferences of four in the West and two in the East all come to mind at first glance.

But there are some arguments to be made for this COA as well. All near-Pacific teams are actually in the Pacific division; a ‘Southern’ division is now truly southern in American terms; and if any Canadian team can transition to the Western Conference, it’s Brian Burke’s Maple Leafs.

While this wouldn’t be a traditional, military-style ‘throw away’ COA (one that is completely out of the box just thrown on the table for hasty discussion and discarding amongst the COAs you are really interested in implementing), it would likely not be as popular with HQ-NHL because it flies in the face of some NHL historical precedents, for the number of differences and the other detractors listed above.

And yet, there is now the Shannahan Factor in NHL research and change implementation. Hmmm…

The Alternate Alternative

Lest we forget one quickly spoken statement in Commissioner Bettman’s Phoenix press conference the other day, there are other options than simply considering Winnipeg for a move of the Yotes. Not knowing if that is Toronto (II), Quebec or even Hamilton, let’s just for the moment call this team TORQUEHAM. With ‘The T’ in the League because of a move, you could make the NHL look like this:

Western Conference

Northwest Division: SJS, VAN, EDM, CGY, COL

Southern Division: LAK, ANA, DAL, TBL, FLA

Mid-West Division: MIN, STL, CHI, NSH, DET

Eastern Conference

Central Division: ATL, CAR, CBJ, PIT, PHI

Atlantic Division: WSH, NJD, NYR, NYI, BOS

Northern Division: TOR, BUF, TORQUEHAM, OTT, MTL

How do you like those apples? Here are some cool reasons to go this route if any new resting place for the Coyotes winds up East of Lake Michigan:

The Northeast Division has a nice, tight, travel shot group.

The Southern Division is where everyone will want to be on the road to in January and February (although we do note the extreme East-to-West Coast distances).

The Mid-West Division adds MIN who seems, in my mind, to always have been missing from the same division as CHI.

The Central Division tightens up their travel shot group like the Northeast.
The Atlantic is now all along the Atlantic seaboard.

And TORQUEHAM’s new division will be an all Canadian quartet playing BUF for the pride of the USA every night.

There could even be branch plan to the above, call it ‘The AA II,’ that could alter the Conferences as follows:

Northwest Division: No Change From Immediately Above

Southern Division: No Change From Immediately Above

Mid-West Division (West): MIN, STL, CHI, NSH, ATL

Central Division (East): CAR, CBJ, WSH, PIT, PHI

Atlantic Division (East): BUF, NJD, NYR, NYI, BOS

Northern Division (East): DET, TOR, TORQUEHAM, OTT, MTL

Both are intriguing, yes?

The Return Of Toto

Wait a minute… What if the new location is Kansas City? What if the NHL goes for long-term, grow-the-gamedness versus immediately potential monetary impact? What if that nice new arena waved under NYI’s nose two years ago is the targeted landing spot for a displaced Phoenix franchise?

How about these combinations:

Western Conference

Northwest Division: SJS, VAN, EDM, CGY, COL

Southern Division: LAK, ANA, DAL, TBL, FLA

Mid-West Division: MIN, STL, KAN, CHI, NSH

Eastern Conference

Central Division: ATL, CAR, CBJ, PIT, PHI

Atlantic Division: WSH, NJD, NYR, NYI, BOS

Northern Division: DET, TOR, BUF, OTT, MTL

That gives you pause for a moment, doesn’t it? Any way you slice this option, Kansas City as a destination for the franchise makes a modified form of one of the Alternate Alternatives a more likely, final COA to adopt.


There are at least five options out there if Phoenix is moved due to the obstructionist methods of The Goldwater Institute.

If Winnipeg is the destination, then the most likely COA is go with The Simple Geographic change that creates the least amount of change and turmoil. The Alternate Geographic is less likely to occur as a more revolutionary than evolutionary change, but an interesting alternative to still consider.

If the Coyotes move east of Michigan, two equally enticing prospects come to mind. The Alternate Alternative or The AA II are equally intriguing, and the best COA comes down to whether you want DET or BUF taking on four Canadian teams in their division.

The Return Of Toto assumes a move to Kansas City is the final choice. It is an thought-provoking spin on The Alternate Alternative and her sister, The AA II, that keeps the moving franchise south of the 49th Parallel where The Great Game has a better chance of growing and expanding that returning the club to a Canadian market whose love of the game can only swing in less than 10% increments upwards.

You can hypothesize changes to NHL divisions any number of ways. But you can hang on your hat on the idea that changes to Phoenix cannot come without restricting NHL divisions.

Take me to On Goal Analysis


Anonymous said...

You should really check whether you mean Northeast or Northwest. Vancouver will never play in a "northeast division," and there will never be 2 northeast divisions.

Anonymous said...

Your "Southern" division is just as bad for Dallas traveling as it is for them now in the Pacific.

Also, that alternative Southern division spanning the bottom of the country is murder, for all teams, not just the stuck in the middle ones.

If you do horizontal splitting, there's going to be real issues with teams and travel. Though being in Dal, I might say "about time!" forcing the eastern side teams to travel more.

But in all of it, it's not just about travel time, but TV times for the broadcasts. There's already issues with DAL broadcasts starting at 9 or 9:30 when they go west coast.

Anonymous said...

For a WSH fan, having PIT and PHI in the same conference would be brutal, brutally fun, exciting and talk about a heart stresser!

Anonymous said...

I am all for any realignment that lands the Red Wings in the East. More games against non-Chicago original six teams? Yes please.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea a local sports radio talk show host had. Put all the teams in a hat and make the divisions that way. Instead of geographical titles they could be renamed like they used to be by using peoples names (gretzky division, Howe division, etc...).

Anonymous said...

The problem with that plan of random organization is television times. Imagine a division with Florida, LA, Detroit, Colorado, and Vancouver. Start times on a nightly basis would run across every time zone. That would be horrific for television and scheduling. The best way to organize it is by considering game start time.

Gordon said...

None of these ideas is better than just eliminating divisional and even conference play.

Anonymous said...

Or you could just go back to 4 divisions-

Pacific- Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver, Anaheim, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado

Central- Dallas, Chicago, St Louis, Detroit, Columbus, Minnesota, Nashville

Northeast- Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Ottawa

Southeast- Washington, Atlanta, Carolina, Florida, Tampa, New Jersey, Rangers, Islanders

That would make re-alignment so much easier if teams move or are added too. Say the Thrashers move to Seattle. The Blue Jackets would get moved from the Central to the NE and Winnipeg would replace them in the Central so Seattle could be moved to the Pacific. If they move to Houston they'd go to the Central with the BJs moving to the NE. And if they move to Eastern Canada then you simply move them into the NE.

Having 6 divisons just makes it too hard to move teams around while pretending it's based on geography. Look how ridiculously large the territories occupied by the current Pacific and Northwest divisons are compared to how tiny the Atlantic and Northeast are. It's preposterous.

Anonymous said...

Edit -- 'northeast' (which includes Vancouver) should likely be 'northwest'. Proofread your walls of text!

Anonymous said...

Time zones don't work for North-South splits on divisions. If the Kings and Ducks are playing all those divisional away games at 4pm PST when people are still at work, the TV people aren't going to like it.

The Colonel said...

Appreciate everyone's comments!

Edited it for NorthWEST for VAN (thanks for the catch!)

And here is a Course Of Action for those who do not like the Southern Conference spanning coast to coast for the 'Toto'/Kansas City option:

Pacific (or some better name - like naming them after former greats): VAN, SJS, LAK, ANA, COL

Northwest: EDM, CGY, MIN, CHI, STL

Southern: DAL, KAN, ATL, TBL, FLA

Central: NSH, CAR, WSH, CBJ, DET

Atlantic: PHI, NJD, NYI, NYR, BOS

And Northern: PIT, BUF, TOR, OTT, MTL

I also like:

1. The idea of four Divisions although there are an uneven number of teams in two or them;

2. No divisions for just ye olde Campbell and Wales Conferences where the top eighth go to the playoffs

3. And retaining the current, six divisions and the playoffs include the top two from each division plus the next two, best teams all seeded 1-8 in each Conference

Ahh, to ponder, perchance, to dream...

The Colonel

Anonymous said...

Hilarious. Yet another person who can't see through the smoke screen. The Coyotes will be moving because the franchise can't make it in AZ. Has nothing to do with the GWI. This franchise has lost between $300M and $500M since they moved to Phx. Their attendance is second to last in the NHL and their tv ratings are atrocious. In TV ratings, they usually come short of women's college hoops, and that's not a joke. I live in the valley and like the team but please tell me why the taxpayers should give Hulsizer $197M so that he can buy the team for $170M? Do you think that you or I could sign up for that deal? LOL.

Anonymous said...

It is pretty well known that Detroit has been clamoring for a move East for years, they consistently have the most strenuous travel schedule in the league due to their placement in the West. If Phoenix moves I think this is one of the first things they look at, and it certainly would be good for the league to get more 7:00 start times for its most visible franchise. Too many of these scenarios leave Detroit out west in my opinion.

Lax Guy said...

Even without Phoenix moving, realignment would not be a terrible idea. One of the first things I do every time I start a new season on PS3 is realign teams, mostly to put teams with similar time zones and/or locations together. Yeah, I think rivalries & broadcasts when I play video games...
West - Pacific: Phx, LA, Ana, SJS, Van
West - Frontier: Edm, Cal, Den, Dal, Min
West - Midwest: Chi, StL, CBJ, Det, Pitt
East - Southern: TB, FL, ATL, Car, Nsh
East - Metro: NJ, NYR, NYI, Phi, Wsh
East - North: Bos, Mtl, Tor, Buf, Ott

-If Phoenix moved to Winnipeg or KC: Move Edmonton to Pacific & Winnipeg/KC to Frontier
-If Phx moved to Toronto/Hamilton/Quebec: Moved Edmonton to Pacific, StL to Frontier, Nashville to MW, Washington to South, Boston to Metro, & T/H/Q to North

No matter how you do it, nothing is perfect - especially in the West. In an ideal world, the conferences would consist of 5 teams in reasonable geographic proximity within a single time zone...

Lax Guy said...

Edit- I meant the divisions would be in close geographic proximity and a single time zone. The conferences should strive to contain no more than two time zones as much as possible.