Now that I've finally had a chance to look at the realignment plans, I'm developing a deep sense of confusion. I actually feel like the NHL might've done something right. That doesn't happen very often, so it's going to take me a while to get used to that fact. It's not exactly what I would've drawn up in a perfect world, but it's a heck of a lot better than the current system. At least for the Wings and Columbus. It doesn't seem like it affects other teams nearly as much.
(Sidenote: All of these news articles are describing the decision as “radical.” Is it really that radical? The new Conferences don't deviate a whole lot from the way things are now.)
I think the thing that bothers me the most is the fact that the Florida teams are grouped together with the northern teams in the East. It just doesn't make sense to me, and things like that tend to annoy me forever. Also, through my Wings-fan goggles, it seems an awful lot like pandering to teams like Pittsburgh, Philly, and Washington. On that note, funny how the coddled little Eastern teams ended up in the smaller divisions, eh?
I'm also not super excited about having to see the same old boring Central Division teams over and over again, but that has a lot to do with the current quality of competition. A couple of years down the road, those teams could change a lot and make life interesting. Well, maybe not Columbus, but you get the idea.
Mostly though, I like the fact that the Wings' travel is going to be cut down significantly. This makes the biggest difference in the playoffs. I've said for years that there would be at least two extra Stanley Cup banners hanging in the rafters from the last decade if the Wings had been in the Eastern Conference. Think about how much easier all of those long playoff runs would've been if they hadn't included multiple trips to the west coast. I've always secretly enjoyed the west coast roadtrips because I like staying up for the late games, but I recognize that I'm kind of strange in that sense.
I think my favorite part of the plan is the potential reseeding after the second round of the playoffs. It opens up a whole array of Finals match-ups that could never happen in the current format. Imagine if the Wings had been able to face the Avs in the Stanley Cup Finals during the rivalry years when they were the league's two best teams by a mile. Imagine the possibility of a “Subway Series” with the Rangers and Islanders matched up in the Finals. (That one was a joke, ok?) The league's top two teams should have the ability to play for the Cup in the Finals, even if they both happen to be from the same Conference.