Hartnett: NHL Realignment Adds Excitement, Emphasis On Rivalries

Semifinals and Stanley Cup Draw Would Also Add Extra Spice

‘Hart Off The Ice’
By Sean Hartnett
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The new NHL realignment brings a shakeup to a stale two-conference system where the eight best teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences qualified for the playoffs.  In 2012-13, those days will be over.

Now there will be four conferences of seven or eight teams that will battle for four playoff spots.  The new yet-to-be-named conference featuring the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes definitely has an ‘old school Patrick Division feel.’

When I was introduced to hockey in the early 1990’s, I had a particular dislike for the Washington Capitals.  My close friends and I were fans of the Rangers, Devils, Flyers and Islanders enjoyed labeling Washington as the team we all agreed to dislike.  There’s always been a natural rivalry between the Capitals and most of the current Atlantic Division teams even after they moved to the Southeast Division in 1998.

The new alignment is something that I’m genuinely looking forward to as there will be more Alexander Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby match-ups.  With the Hurricanes added to the division, we’ll get to see Eric Staal playing frequently against his brothers Marc of the Rangers and Jordan of the Penguins.

These rivalries will be more important than ever as the top four teams in each conference will be battling each other for positions that will directly impact their first round playoff match-ups.  How do first round clashes featuring Rangers-Capitals and Penguins-Flyers or Penguins-Capitals and Devils-Flyers sound to you?  Pretty interesting, eh?

The first two rounds will strictly be in-conference rounds for example: The Rangers defeat the Penguins in round one to face the winner of the Capitals and Flyers in the second round.  What comes next in the semifinal and final rounds will be decided when the General Managers meetings take place in March.

I find this part most intriguing of all.  It would be great to see the remaining teams drawn out of a bowl by a former Stanley Cup captain as fans and players watch on the edge of their seats to see their path into the Stanley Cup Finals.  This would add a different flavor to every Stanley Cup as one year we could witness the Boston Bruins facing the Penguins or see the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers meet in an ‘Original Six Stanley Cup Final.’

Fans of an older generation had the opportunity to witness the Islanders and Flyers in the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals and the Canadiens and Rangers a year earlier.  A lottery system would allow hockey to re-connect with its past and also provide the opportunity to create first-time Stanley Cup opponents that were never possible before.

The new realignment will bring exciting changes for hockey fans and breathe new life into the NHL, separating it from the MLB, NFL and NBA.  Especially if they can take advantage of the four-conference system by introducing a European style draw to add spice to the Stanley Cup.

What do you make of the new NHL alignment changes and proposed lottery system for the final two playoff rounds?  Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.

  • paul herman

    Why can’t the NY Rangers be paired with their old rivals, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadians, along with the Islanders, Devils, Flyers & Penguins?

    When I first started watching hockey during the 1969-70 season, the Rangers and Bruins had one of the most hated rivalries in sports!

  • Nav Mangat

    I agree with everything, except a lottery system, they should instead just reseed the teams in order of their regular season records.

  • Andrew Patterson

    No way. I’m completely looking forward to the realignment w/ a lot of anticipation. It’s just like the old Patrick Division w/ the addition of Carolina. But why then would I want to see my Rangers face Anaheim or Phoenix in the first round? I’d much rather stick to in-conference rivalries.

  • BleacherCreature26

    there’s only 1 aspect of the playoffs that should be changed: the first and second rounds should be BEST OF 5 not best of 7. I’m a big hockey fan, but here is why the sport fails: no one cares about the finals after almost 2 months of playoffs!

  • Tanner

    It’s not totally geographically savy. This is much better of a setup Geographically and most all of the big Rival teams are still in the same Conference. I even kept washington and pittsburgh in the same conference just for Bettman’s Crosby vs Ovechkin circus shows.

    Conferece A I agree.- Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, los angeles, phoenix, san jose, vancouuver

    B Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Ottawa, buffalo

    C Columbus,st Louis, Nashville, Carolina, dallas,florida, and tampa bay.

    D montreal,boston,new York rangs,new York Isles, New jersey, Philly,Washington, pittsburgh.

    Also,the top 4 in each conference to make the playoffs is unfair. Teams in one division will miss the playoffs eventhough they had better records than teams with a worse record in another conference that did make the playoffs.

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