Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Re-Align That Frown:

Montreal Gets Easier Playoff Road

The NHL's realignment has been hyped as victory all about travel and geography. But I'm not so sure. I'm not sure anyone has plugged in the miles, but with the redistribution of games played makes it seem like teams might do more travelling. The Canadiens will be one.

But let's face it, the lengthy arduous part of travelling is all the shuttling and airport, the toll that a flight 1.5 hours longer has on players is negligible.

The travel argument is salient. Sure it is for teams in places like Dallas. But I've got news for Dallas -- the reason your team has to travel so much is because there are no teams located anywhere near Dallas. That won't change however the conferences are reorganized.

Lost in the hype, perhaps is the coup that certain Governors seem to have carried out here. The New York teams, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington and Carolina (the NHL's best shots at strengthening newish roots in the US) make off in this deal like bandits. It seems like any and all concerns these powerful parties might have had will be met. The travel they will have to do must be the league minimum, the rivalries are all natural enough, and they got Florida turfed from their mix.

But the Governors from the Northeast also have red hands, because the most important coup from all this realignment is not which teams are in which divisions, nor how much less flying teams will have to do. Rather the coup is the unbalanced number of teams without a correcting mechanism in the playoffs.

By this new alignment, teams in the East can play 0.500 hockey and virtually guarantee playoff runs because only 6 of 14 teams will miss each year.

For Habs fans, I don't think anything should matter as much as this.

If our team plays in a league where 82 games are played without any recognition other than entry into a new tournament, then surely the most important thing for people who wish to watch winners of the tournament is that any imbalance runs in their favour.

With 7 teams in Conference Whatever It's Called, it surely does.

So while there's little niggles to complain about (more trips to Florida less to Pittsburgh, poor guys), the protest should be muted before we seem ungrateful for the playoff advantage. This realignment should bring all smiles to Montreal.

What's lost, what's gained:

+2 games vs. Florida, Tampa
+1 trip to Florida, Tampa
-2 games vs. NYR, NYI, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Carolina, Washington and Winnipeg
+12 games vs. various Western teams
+ chances of making the playoffs
- having to be careful of every Eastern team in March
+ possibility of Boston, Buffalo, Ottawa or Toronto in playoffs
- possibility of having to face NYR, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington in the first round
+ more late games
- (hopefully) afternoon starts

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