Well it’s about time. Finally, after spending the last two seasons in the distant Southeastern Division, the Winnipeg Jets and their fans are starting to hear some information regarding the NHL’s pending re-alignment.
Over the weekend, CBC’s Elliotte Friedman tweeted out what appears to be the final (although not yet finalized) re-alignment proposal that will take place next season.
The league next year will appear as follows:
Conference 1: Carolina – Columbus – New Jersey – NY Islanders – NY Rangers – Philadelphia – Pittsburgh – Washington
Conference 2: Boston – Buffalo – Detroit – Florida – Montreal – Ottawa – Tampa Bay – Toronto
Conference 3: Winnipeg – Chicago – Colorado – Dallas – Minnesota – Nashville – St. Louis
Conference 4: Anaheim – Calgary – Edmonton – LA – Phoenix – San Jose – Vancouver
This means that there will a total of eight teams in the two “Eastern” conferences, and seven teams in the two “Western” conferences. It is assumed that each team will play a home-and-home with every other team in the league, and fill out the remainder of the schedule playing intra-conference games.
*** Update: Instead of four different "Conferences" there will be two overall Conferences (The Eastern and the Western) with four "Divisons", namely the Atlantic and Central (#1 & #2) in the East and the Midwest and Pacific (#3 & #4) in the West.
As was reported on TSN’s “Insider Trading” segment during the Leafs/Flyers game, it seems as if the playoff format will proceed slightly differently than what was proposed last year. It is believed that in each of the four conferences the top three teams will automatically make the playoffs, and there will be “wildcard” spots that the remaining teams will all compete for. (All the details of the format have not been leaked out just yet, but you get the idea)
*** Update: The latest proposal has two wildcard teams within each of the respected conferences. The top three teams in each divison will be in the playoffs, with the fourth and final spot in each division filled by a wildcard. The wildcard winners will be those teams with the most points in their respected conference, (regardless of division) that didn’t qualify for the top three stops in their division.
An interesting point was also made regarding the relocation or expansion of the league. Notice how the two conferences with seven teams are located out west. From there it can be predicted that for simplicity sake, should the ‘Yotes (or anyone else) relocate, or should the league expand, that team would be moving out west (into a city such as Seattle, or possibly Kansas City) to balance the league rather than moving into Quebec City or into the GTA. At that point, it is safe to assume that the playoff format would have to be adjusted once again.
What Does This Mean For The Jets?
Travel wise, this re-alignment is absolutely fabulous for the Jets. Teams that they will be seeing on a regular basis are generally much closer geographically, and every team in the new conference except for Colorado is going to be in the Central Time zone. This means that game start times will be much more consistent for the majority of the season, allowing for better routines for players and more consistency for fans.
Unfortunately, although this means less time in the air for the Jets, it also means less time in the air for opponents coming to the MTS Center, such as Tampa Bay and Florida who had to fly across the country to get into the city.
Competition wise though, this re-alignment may make things a little harder on the Jets. I figured the fairest way to compare the competition the Jets are facing in their division now to their conference next year was by comparing point percentages. (Mainly due to the influx of teams from 4 constant opponents to 6)
Looking at the 2013 season to this point (February 25th) the combined point percentage of opponents in the Southeastern Division is standing at .465. The average point percentage of the teams that will becomes the Jets newly formed Conference in .602. That’s quite the difference, and can be used to judge where the Jets would be in the conference (they are sitting at .472)
Now to be fair, the Chicago Blackhawks are not going to start every season going 15-0-3, so I decided to look at last year’s percentages to get a more well-rounded opinion. Last year the Southeast percentage was at .537, and the new Conference was at .581. Much closer, but Florida did win the Division with a mere 94 points, and 18 of them came from overtime and shootout losses.
The Jets finished at .512, so again they were below the average, and it is very easy to conclude that the Jets are going to be entering a very difficult conference next season, which may lead to some troubles.
None the less, I am quite excited for this re-alignment to happen and personally I plan to make an annual trip down to the Twin Cities to take part in what is sure to be an intense new rivalry. This will also allow fans of Jonathan Toews to see a local hero play on a regular basis, and expose the hockey crazed fans here to a much wider range of the NHL talent.