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March 22, 2013

NHL realignment is a step in the right direction

Having watched the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman bungle decision after decision over the years, it’s almost gotten to the point where mistakes are expected.

Well, folks, they finally got something right when the NHL officially approved its realignment plan last week.

Starting next year, the league will be broken into four divisions — two in the east and two in the west.

The east will feature eight teams per division, seven per division in the west.

Every team will play a home-and-home regular-season series with teams teams from the other conference -- i.e. the Bruins will play Vancouver twice every season -- three games against non-division conference foes and four or five games against division opponents.

The plan has its problems, sure. Increased travel, a playoff wildcard system, the door it opens for league expansion.

But for a sport that’s been pushing over the past few years to get back on the map, this is a great step forward.

Some of you will remember a similar format in the past, when the league was broken into four similar, but smaller, divisions from 1974-1993.

And the benefits of that format will be seen again in this one.

The best thing that will stem from this NHL realignment is rivalries. Think about why the Bruins and the Canadiens have such a great rivalry: Years and years of hotly-contested regular season and playoff battles.

Well, the newly created divisions will result in much of the same. The playoff format will consist of a four-team divisional bracket, much like the days of the Adams Division, followed by a conference championship round and finally the Stanley Cup Finals.

Let’s look at it in the case of the Bruins’ division, where they’ll be joined by Montreal, Detroit, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Florida.

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