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Red Wings stay in the Western side as NHL realigns into ‘conferences’: Wings brass digs the change

Updated at 11:56 PM with Wings brass reaction: You know how I grumbled about the whole, “Nothing’s going to change with regards to realignment” thing on Sunday. Yeah, time for crow. According to half a billion sources—and, most importantly, Gary Bettman and the NHL—the NHL’s Board of Governors have indeed approved radical realignment for the 2012-2013 season (assuming we have one), with the Red Wings joining an eight-team “conference” alongside the Jets, Blackhawks, Blues, Blue Jackets, Predators, Stars and Wild.

That means tons and tons of games against those seven teams, battling against those seven teams for four playoff spots as the West will consist of the larger eight-team conferences, and intra-divisional playoffs and then re-seeding of the “conference” champions for the Semifinals and Finals.

Thoughts? It immediately strikes me that every road game the Wings will play against a team other than Columbus will be in the Central time zone, and that while there’s nothing wrong with a home-and-home series against every other team in the league—especially the Maple Leafs, Rangers, Canadiens and Bruins—I’m gonna miss those four-game sloughs against the Ducks and Sharks, as well as two games in Phoenix where the rink is red instead of “brick.” That and I’m gonna have to get my hate on for the Jets, which won’t be easy…But I’m blathering here. I want to know what you think.

Update: By my math, for the Red Wings, this will mean 44 games against the other “conferences’” teams and 36 against one’s “conference” opponents, breaking down as 5 games against 6 of your intra-conference opponents and 6 games against 1. Then it’s two rounds of playoff against “conference” foes.

Update: Per DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose:

I’m told conference names will be Pacific, Central, Northeast, and Atlantic. #RedWings will be in the Central Conference. @DetroitRedWings

Also: Here’s what Ken Holland had to say to the Free Press’s Helene St. James...

“The Board voted for the four-conference format,” Holland said this evening. “When we talked internally in the organization six months ago, our thoughts were that we wanted to go to the Eastern Conference, but after seeing the presentation for this proposal, it was a good compromise.

“We get every team in the league once in our building, the first two rounds are within the conference, and we only have to go to California and Western Canada once a season. We think it’s a good situation for us.”

And here’s what he and Jimmy Devellano said to MLive’s Ansar Khan:

“We’re happy,’’ general manager Ken Holland said. “Our fans should be excited and happy about it.’‘

—The new format—the Red Wings are in an eight-team “conference’’ with Chicago, Columbus, St. Louis, Nashville, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg—will reduce Detroit’s travel, in the regular season (the Red Wings will make only one trip per season to the West Coast and western Canada) and in the playoffs, as the first two rounds will be within the division.

—It results in more road games starting earlier.

—And the new scheduling matrix will see every team play other other club home and away each season.

“It’s a lot better than the situation we had,’’ Holland said.

Said Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano: “I’m so happy. It’s a dream come true for the Detroit Red Wings.’’ He added, “As far as us going East, that never was a big issue. Only that the schedule would have been better for us.’‘

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Comments

Keyser S.'s avatar

I’m confused. So the wings have to battle for a playoff spot with 7 other teams and maybe 8 more from the other conference, while two other conferences’s only have to battle 6 teams for a playoff spot?

It did say inter-conference play for the playoffs right?

Posted by Keyser S. on 12/05/11 at 11:45 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

No, my bad. The first two rounds of the playoffs are going to be within one’s conference, and the “conference” champ will then advance to the semifinals. No more, “The best eight teams from the West make it”—it’s now “the best four teams in each ‘conference’ make the playoffs, regardless of whether there are eight teams in your ‘conference’ or seven.”

And there are going to be eight teams in our “conference.”

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 12/05/11 at 11:51 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

Stacking the deck for the East once again. Bunch of bullshit.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 12/05/11 at 11:53 PM ET

Keyser S.'s avatar

I apologize if this comes easier for some, but the eastern conference will have 14 teams, while the western conference has 16?

That doesn’t seem fair to me.

Posted by Keyser S. on 12/05/11 at 11:54 PM ET

SK77's avatar

I apologize if this comes easier for some, but the eastern conference will have 14 teams, while the western conference has 16?

That’s assuming Phoenix sticks it out much longer ...

All in all this is a good start, maybe it’ll need some tweaking, but at least the Board of Governors has decided to move forward and experiment.

Plus the guaranteed home and home each season is great news ...

Posted by SK77 on 12/05/11 at 11:59 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Yeah, that’s how it works. Clearly the Eastern Conference’s owners weren’t going to give up their cozy little travel-free schedules for nothing.

And when Bettman’s staunchest allies are people like Jeremy Jacobs (Boston), the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund/Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment/Brian Burke (Toronto), Lou Lamoriello (New Jersey, and yes, he’s not the owner, but still), Ed Snider (Philadelphia), the MSG conglomerate (NYR), Ted Leonsis (Washington), Jim Rutherford (subbing for Peter Karmanos as Carolina’s heavy) and Mario (Pittsburgh), you’re always going to be given the “win.”

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 12/06/11 at 12:00 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

There are pluses and minuses. Like Spector said on Twitter, we could have teams with more wins and points in one “conference” not making the playoffs because they’re a member of an eight-team conference instead of a seven-team one, but the travel has been cut for the Western teams and there are home-and-homes for Original Six teams…

I would have expected the NHL to move Columbus to the East and then say, “Okay, we’re done.” This is good but change never comes without a price tag.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 12/06/11 at 12:02 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

I apologize if this comes easier for some, but the eastern conference will have 14 teams, while the western conference has 16?

There’s no Eastern or Western conferences.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 12/06/11 at 12:06 AM ET

Keyser S.'s avatar

There’s no Eastern or Western conferences.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 12/05/11 at 10:06 PM ET

Aye, that’s what was screwing me up.

I thought we’d be battling 16 teams for a playoff spot, while the “eastern” conference would be battling 14.

Posted by Keyser S. on 12/06/11 at 12:14 AM ET

cs6687's avatar

Stacking the deck for the East once again. Bunch of bullshit.

There is no East and West anymore. This realignment is unnecessary and overthought because some Western teams were bitching about travel. Boo *#$%@& hoo.

Posted by cs6687 on 12/06/11 at 12:32 AM ET

CJmango's avatar

This doesn’t seem so terrible.  We have the benefit of only one time change and significantly limited travel as compared to the previous schedule.  What’s more, we have a nearly guaranteed appearance in the playoffs for the foreseeable future.  You can safely say that the Wings and the Hawks will fare well, with some minor competitiveness from Nashville and Minnesota, but with the Blues, Jackets and Jets in our conference… it’s basically a 4/5 roll of the dice to make the playoffs every year.

Posted by CJmango on 12/06/11 at 12:43 AM ET

Avatar

This realignment is unnecessary and overthought because some Western teams were bitching about travel.

To quote you, there is no East and West anymore.

Or…jeez, did you just prove your own argument to be BS in trying to make your argument?

Posted by Garth on 12/06/11 at 12:46 AM ET

Avatar

Honestly, this isn’t perfect, but it is better.  The travel is better for the Wings, and we get to play more games against original 6 teams.  Where it really pays off is in the playoffs.  No criss crossing the country every other day for series against teams in western canada or pacific coast. 

Is it going to be tough having to go through Chicago every year to try to get to the final 4?  Hell yeah, but it should really ramp up the rivalry to another level.  If this economy can gain some positive momentum, it might really help the NHL fill more arenas.

Posted by Eric from Sioux Falls, SD on 12/06/11 at 12:49 AM ET

sjketcheson's avatar

There is no East and West anymore. This realignment is unnecessary and overthought because some Western teams were bitching about travel. Boo *#$%@& hoo.

Posted by cs6687 on 12/05/11 at 10:32 PM ET

Boo hoo to you too!

Posted by sjketcheson from the floor of the Hasek on 12/06/11 at 12:51 AM ET

John W.'s avatar

I think this is about as good as could be expected as far as the Wings are concerned.  Yes, they are in an 8 team conference, but will now only have to travel to each Pacific time zone rink once a regular season, and I’m assuming it will be scheduled so it’s all done (or at least close to) at once.  Plus, we are at least now guaranteed to see each original six opponent at the Joe.  Add in the fact that our first 2 playoff rounds are guaranteed to be no farther away than Winnipeg and Dallas and possibly as close as Chicago and Columbus, and it seems good to me.

This realignment is unnecessary and overthought because some Western teams were bitching about travel. Boo *#$%@& hoo.

Posted by cs6687 on 12/05/11 at 10:32 PM ET

As an Eastern Conference team fan whose team only has to leave it’s time zone once or twice a year under the current alignment, you really have no right to say that.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 12/06/11 at 12:55 AM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

So Snider’s flyer’s, karamono’s hurricane’s, leonsis’s caps get the bus rides up the coast against the new York area teams instead of playing in the division with the Florida teams?

Seems to me that swapping the wings into Atlanta’s old spot would have made as much sense as the leafs playing in Florida and tampa’s division?

6 games against columbus every year. 6 games total against the leafs,habs, and rangers? Yeah..that seems about par for the course for this Mickey mouse leauge.

Posted by Down River Dan on 12/06/11 at 01:05 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

It’s eight games against the Leafs, Habs, Bruins and Rangers instead of as few as four. I’ll take that much and run with it.

I mean there are some good things about this and some not-so-good things. Teams in the “Western” conferences—and I would imagine that the Wings’ “conference” will be called the “Midwest” or “Central” conference—get a break in terms of travel and games outside of their time zones in exchange for a much harder road to hoe in terms of making the playoffs as they could finish with more points than teams in other “conferences” but not make their own’s playoff cut…

And the teams in the “Eastern” conferences (probably Atlantic/Eastern/Northeast) receive an easier road to the playoffs in exchange for facing increased travel costs and wear and tear.

I’m not a fan of the concept of no inter-conference playoffs or delineation between “West” and “East” but I’m also a fuddy duddy when it comes to those kinds of things. In exchange for a little less travel in the first two rounds, the Wings’ rivalries with San Jose, Anaheim and the legacy rivalry with Colorado will, barring Semifinal playoff rounds, are going to lessen significantly, and the Cup Final becomes something of a crapshoot, and again, I don’t know what to think about that.

We’ll have to see how it plays out in reality. I can’t imagine that Winnipeg’s delighted with playing only two games against every other Canadian team when it could have ended up with five or six against the Flames, Oilers and Canucks, and I’m guessing that Columbus is way pissed off that it didn’t get its way and will have to continue to compete financially with teams that it believes don’t make good geographic rivals, Detroit excluded.

This is one of those major changes that will only reveal its flaws over the course of time—just as the initial post-lockout schedule of an unwieldy eight games against one’s divisional opponent was supposed to be fantastic but played out as an incredibly dreadful slough, we might find that something else about the new schedule is particularly annoying over the long haul, and at least every team is in the experiment together.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 12/06/11 at 01:36 AM ET

Alzy's avatar

Anything that “levels the playing field,” so to speak is fine by me. The east coast teams have had an unfair advantage for far too long, it’s about time they had to experience the same shitty travel the western teams do.

Posted by Alzy from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada on 12/06/11 at 01:44 AM ET

Avatar

I’m pretty much in sync with your thoughts George.  I really like that travel was a little more evened out than it was.  There will still be teams that have to travel more miles than others, but the discrepancy should shrink quite a bit.  It just never seemed completely fair that the Eastern Conference winner would regular go through the playoffs travelling less than half the miles of the Western Conference winner.

I think one of the biggest early hurdles though will be to get everyone to stop thinking along the lines of East/West.  It will be interesting to see how things play out.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 12/06/11 at 01:52 AM ET

Avatar

IMO, this is a stopgap measure until Phoenix decides what to do.

If they keep this schedule for 3 years I guarantee you that at least 2 teams per year get SCREWED out of the playoffs.  They SHOULD let the Division winners have a bye add one more “conference” playoff team, and have the 1st round be best of 5.|

Another round of playoffs = Mo Money.

Posted by Bobafett from Las Vegas, NV on 12/06/11 at 02:05 AM ET

Avatar

IMO, this is a stopgap measure until Phoenix decides what to do.

If they keep this schedule for 3 years I guarantee you that at least 2 teams per year get SCREWED out of the playoffs.  They SHOULD let the Division winners have a bye add one more “conference” playoff team, and have the 1st round be best of 5.|

Another round of playoffs = Mo Money.

Posted by Bobafett from Las Vegas, NV on 12/06/11 at 12:05 AM ET

I have a feeling that the teams in the 7 team conferences were told that if the Coyotes left town, they could end up in one of those conferences if it made geographic sense.

Teams get screwed out of the playoffs across 2 conferences right now.  Dallas and Calgary missed the playoffs last year, but had more points than the 8 seed in the East.  The only way it will be different now is if you’re still thinking along the lines of East/West instead of East/Atlantic/Central/West.

Posted by Valek from Chicago on 12/06/11 at 02:14 AM ET

Alzy's avatar

And also, on the topic of which conferences play each other in the semifinals, I assume it’ll just go by regular season records. So the best record plays the worst, and 2 plays 3. But I’d love it if they made it Pacific plays Atlantic, just to watch all those teams and their fans get all hot and bothered. The Wings dealt with it for 20 years, I’m sure you’d all do just fine.

Posted by Alzy from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada on 12/06/11 at 02:15 AM ET

bezukov's avatar

I would be dancing in the street if the Wings were in the Eastern Conference, but all in all I can’t complain.  The lowered travel should be a boon for the Wings and it should help even things out come playoff time.  I just hate that we’re still stuck in a conference with almost all the NHL’s gimmick teams.  But hey, you can’t have everything.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 12/06/11 at 02:16 AM ET

Avatar

This isn’t a stop-gap solution. Phoenix if it moves to Quebec (or Southern ONT): it will join one of the two conferences with 7 teams.

The new 7 team conferences were essentially bribes by Bettman for the Eastern Conference to vote for this proposal.

Those teams and fans will now learn what it is like to have to stay up to 10:35pm to watch puck drops several days in a row as the schedule will undoubtedly be arranged so they fly to the Pacific coast only once. Lets listen to how quick Burnside changes his tune when he has to do the same….

Posted by dca from formerly in Alexandria on 12/06/11 at 02:18 AM ET

Wings_Fan_In_KC's avatar

Bring back the Norris, Smythe, Adams and Patrick names for Conferences!!!

Posted by Wings_Fan_In_KC from ...somewhere southwest of The Motor City... on 12/06/11 at 02:38 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Bring back the Norris, Smythe, Adams and Patrick names for Conferences!!!

Posted by Wings_Fan_In_KC from ...somewhere southwest of The Motor City… on 12/06/11 at 12:38 AM ET

+19.

Posted by SYF from Alana Blanchard's Bikinis and Surfboards on 12/06/11 at 03:00 AM ET

Nate A's avatar

I’m liking this from a regular season perspective. Having fewer 10:30 starts is a good thing. But I’m not completely sold on the playoff format. Again, viewing times will be nice for the first round, but It’d be a shame to end up with 2 power house teams from the same region to play and one get knocked out early. Or a crappy team sneak through thanks to a crappier region.

I’m sure the Florida teams are where they are purely as a consolation to somebody, but it’s still weird as hell.

And from a simplicity standpoint, I’m against “named” conferences. The history bit is nice and all, but its confusing, particularly to new fans. Geographic naming is far more intuitive (again, the FLA teams and Canadia grouping screws this up somewhat)

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 12/06/11 at 03:09 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

Statistically this is devestating for teams in the west.  Considering there are each one less team to battle for a playoff spot each year in the east, over the course of several years, eastern teams are given a distinct advantage.  I do not see how this structure gains parity until two expansion teams are named and further gerrymandering occurs.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 12/06/11 at 04:58 AM ET

Avatar

Random thoughts after reading the above:

In some ways, now the east will have it a bit worse (going from Detroit to LA is shorter than say, Montreal to LA, although that 1974-78 Norris division had all three teams in it), although the conference games will still on average be shorter distance. I remember the 80’s, when it felt like the de facto Stanley Cup was Edmonton’s divisional playoffs.
George, from personal experience, crow tastes better with salsa.
I still hope they could go with name conferences, and someone suggested Orr, Howe, Gretzky, and Richard.
They still haven’t ironed out if how the semi-final rounds are going to be paired. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Pittsburgh, the Rangers, or Boston have to do the cross-country trek in the semi-finals for once?
The NHLPA still has to approve it, although it doesn’t require all of the members to vote.
I read/heard (it’s all a blur now) that Nashville more or less asked that whatever division Detroit was in, they wanted to be in it (which may have helped defeat the possible “put all of the southern teams together” possibility—e.g., Dallas, Carolina, Florida, Tampa, Washington, Nashville, St. Louis, if not the fact that there is not an Original 6 team in that group—the only group without one is the West).
Of course, having some of the northeastern teams visiting Florida isn’t necessarily a bad thing (re: for the Florida markets with transplanted northeasterners, and for the northeastern teams getting a warm weather escape).
Winnepeg I think will get over it, especially since they’re just grateful to have an NHL team at all, and now they get Detroit in for maybe 3 games a year, and get all of the Canadian teams once.
Columbus will also get some benefit from more eastern teams coming in (even if it’s not as much as they hoped for).

My eyes are crossing. Good night, y’all.
The big winners are Dallas and Minnesota, to get closer divisional rivals. The Wings fans get to actually watach more games with the kids at a reasonable hour, too (and the Original 6 every season at least home and home as noted above, is better than what it is now). Also, George (hopefully) gets more sleep.
The losers include the Wings fans out west who only get 1 chance a year to see the team (and the teams figuring on a sellout with Wings fans coming in).

Posted by Bugsy on 12/06/11 at 05:31 AM ET

Primis's avatar

There is no East and West anymore. This realignment is unnecessary and overthought because some Western teams were bitching about travel. Boo *#$%@& hoo.

Posted by cs6687 on 12/05/11 at 10:32 PM ET

And yet here you are bitching about needing to travel out West more finally, which has been long overdue.

Posted by Primis on 12/06/11 at 09:18 AM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

Two of the divisions should be Howe and Yzerman, maybe a Lindsay and a Bowman. smile

Posted by Rdwings28 on 12/06/11 at 10:51 AM ET

Cliff's avatar

It isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely much better for Detroit.  I’m thrilled.

As for playoff matchups, Wings have finished fifth in a 15 team conference once in 20 years.  So I’m not worried about us being “screwed” because we finished 5th in an 8 team conference.

Also, Ken Holland trained us in the playoffs to “root for distance, not the opponent”.  So a big win here.  Easier flights, and 8:30 pm starts instead of 10:30 pm.

Posted by Cliff on 12/06/11 at 12:08 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.