Everyone’s had their take on the realignment already. We have. Puck Daddy has. Every team blog in the world has. And I will say, I generally like it. Everything seems pretty reasonable, cuts down travel costs and will make things interesting in the future.
I should say, everything is reasonable except one thing. One huge elephant in the room which everybody seems to mention, but nobody seems to be making a big deal about. I don’t understand why people aren’t yelling about this…because they should be.
Hit the jump for why this new alignment is widely unfair.
So the conferences are as follows:
|Conference A||Conference B||Conference C||Conference D|
|San Jose||St. Louis||Toronto||Washington|
Notice anything different about Conference C and D? Seven teams vs. eight? Sure that means that some teams will play inter-conference games more often than others, but hey, that’s life, right? As long as you win, everyone is on a even playing field…
Or not. Playoff berths are determined by finishing in the top four in the conference. In the first two conferences, that means you have to be better than four teams. But in the other two conferences, you only have to be better than three teams. So while a team like Columbus has a 50% chance of making the playoffs, everything else being equal, Toronto has 57% chance to move on.
Don’t people see that this is inherently a HUGE advantage for the 14 teams in the smaller conferences? How isn’t this a bigger deal? Doesn't anybody notice this?
The only mention I’ve seen of this is a Puck Headline at Yahoo yesterday, which linked to an article at Kings Blog, Jewels From the Crown by Quisp. The article was titled: “Do the 7-Team Confervisions (his word) Really Have an Advantage Over the 8-Team Ones?” and briefly mentions this notion, before quickly dismissing it as well:
Of course, it's true that if you're in an "8", you have more teams to beat out. But it's equally true that, if you're in an "8", you have a higher likelihood of getting a team in your confervision that truly sucks. If this happens, that's five or six games against a bottom-feeder that no-one else gets. Obviously, this could work the other way (you have a higher likelihood of having an elite team in your confervision), but I think that is really just another way of saying "you have more teams to beat out." (It's only bad that there's an extra team in your confervision if that team is better than you; if they suck, yay!) In other words, it doesn't matter that you have more teams to beat out if you also have more teams that suck.
Holy Jesus, that’s a terrible argument on so many levels. Sure, yes, in an 8 team conference, you might get a few more games against a bottom feeder. But in the EXACT same vein, you have the same chance of getting an extremely strong team. And not only that, the only teams you are competing against are the teams in your conference. They all have to play the same schedule against the easy and hard teams, so there’s absolutely no benefit to anyone in this regard! HOW AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO GETS THIS!?!?!?!!
Update 3:31 clarification: I don't know if I explained this well enough, so here's a bit more on why Quisp's argument doesn't really add up. Essentially, there are four little leagues now. Within each, the teams have roughly the same strength of schedule and certainly have the same style of schedule. One bad or one elite team in each division affects all the teams within that division equally. So if Columbus is historically bad in next season, St. Louis doesn't benefit with the free points when they play each other, because Detroit, Dallas, Nashville, and the rest of the new central division will also benefit.
Sure the top teams in the division would end up having slightly more points because of this, but there is no comparison outside your league any more. Just because you have more points than the first place team in another division doesn't mean a thing anymore. The only thing that matters is where you end up in your division.
So, essentially, having bad teams isn't helpful in terms of points. Thus, the only difference is that for two of the divisions (or leagues, whatever you want to call it), there is one less team. Thus, instead of being 4 of 8 teams making it, 4 of 7 will for those two divisions.
Think about it. If you wanted to enter a lotto with four winners picked, would you want to want to enter that lotto against 6 other guys, or 7? You'd choose the smaller every time because there's a bigger chance you'd get picked. Thus, all other things being equal (as in not judging the quality of teams, travel, etc.) this makes it so 57% percent of the teams in the two 7 team conferences make the playoffs, while only 50% of the teams of the two teams in the 8 team conferences move on to the playoffs.
There was one other blip of sanity I’ve seen. One commentator over at JFTC seems to also understand it, as he figured out some stats on the issue:
Teams in 7-team divisions are 14% more likely to make the playoffs by default. In fact, there’s a fairly high likelihood (~45%) that the 5th ranked team in an eight team division will have more points than the fourth-ranked team in a seven team division if you just assign each team a random number of points. (Not only that, the fourth-of-seven ranked team is guaranteed an easier division schedule than an fifth-of-eight would get.)
So again, how has this been passed over without even so much as a discussion is totally beyond me. No other sport has this inherent inequality built into their alignment.
Teams in the West have been getting screwed for a while because it has been the better conference, for, well, forever. But that's a different discussion, as it was simply due to circumstance. My biggest problem is that this unfairness is built into the system now. This is utterly and totally ridiculous.
@DannyG Sweet avatar, my photographer took that one last time at H2H2.
Anyway, I heard a point that ideally we'd like to have an 8 and a 7 out west, and an 8 and a 7 in the east. This didn't happen because of the volatility within the Phx organization, and if they move in the next couple of years (which is likely), then it will probably be very, very eastward. This will then give us two 8 & 7's in each half of the continent without needing any re-realignment. However, had they done two 8&7's now, they'd need to re-realign once Phx moved.
The only new thing I like about the realignment is the schedule, but they could have changed that without this craziness.
I don't understand why both 7 team conferences are in the East. and why they didn't just put DET or CBJ into either of the eastern ones. Was it just to get the Eastern teams to agree?
The most logical way would be to give the 2 Western conferences the advantage and just chalk it up to travel disadvantage.
It has been noted in other places (NHL writers, various blogs), but (a) it's unavoidable in a 30-team league; (b) the status quo was already unfair to many teams, so even this slight unfairness may be better for the general good, and (c) you could make an argument that it's still easier to get into the Playoffs through Conf A than, say, Conference D.
Some people have been referring to Conf D as a "super conference". Yes, it only has 7 teams, but one has to think that Pittsburgh, Washington, and Philadelphia (all of which have young marquee players) are going to be powerhouses for the forseeable future. That leaves CAR, NJ, NYR, and NYI to fight for ONE playoff spot.
By contrast, in Conference A, only Vancouver and San Jose have shown any type of stability post-lockout (though Anaheim has been good at times). So there are 8 teams in the Western Conferences, but hockey also struggles more in the West, which means less revenue, which means fewer teams capable of meeting the salary cap maximum.
No, it isn't ideal - I'd like to see two teams CONTRACTED and then a re-shuffle, but that isn't going to happen. But the same situation exists in MLB where the AL West has FOUR teams, while the NL Central has SIX. Doesn't that make it less likely for the teams in the NL Central to win a division (even if the Wild Card is available)? Yet the Cardinals have won two WS since 2006. This new NHL alignment is much better and will work for now.
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It has been noted in other places (NHL writers, various blogs), but (a) it's unavoidable in a 30-team league -not true, there are a million ways to do this that doesn't have this problem. For example, the last alignment. ;
(b) the status quo was already unfair to many teams, so even this slight unfairness may be better for the general good,
- but it wasn't built into the system, the only unfairness before was brought about due to skills of teams.
(c) you could make an argument that it's still easier to get into the Playoffs through Conf A than, say, Conference D. -This year it is, that can change year to year. Maybe next year its the easiest.
Some people have been referring to Conf D as a "super conference". Yes, it only has 7 teams, but one has to think that Pittsburgh, Washington, and Philadelphia (all of which have young marquee players) are going to be powerhouses for the forseeable future. That leaves CAR, NJ, NYR, and NYI to fight for ONE playoff spot. -Perhaps, but not too long ago, Washington and Pittsburgh were at the bottom of the league. Again, the differences are not built into the system.
By contrast, in Conference A, only Vancouver and San Jose have shown any type of stability post-lockout (though Anaheim has been good at times). So there are 8 teams in the Western Conferences, but hockey also struggles more in the West, which means less revenue, which means fewer teams capable of meeting the salary cap maximum. -Hockey struggles out west? The western conference has been significantly better for the past 8 or so years.
No, it isn't ideal - I'd like to see two teams CONTRACTED and then a re-shuffle, but that isn't going to happen. But the same situation exists in MLB where the AL West has FOUR teams, while the NL Central has SIX. Doesn't that make it less likely for the teams in the NL Central to win a division (even if the Wild Card is available)? Yet the Cardinals have won two WS since 2006. -Fair enough, but I still think the Wild card helps even it out. I think the answer is to have some sort of wild card here.
I've updated with some additional explanations. I'm surprised there isn't as much outrage at this...
@moorecha It seems like many people just don't seem to mind the new system. Mr. Holland seems content with it. I personally don't like uneven conferences, but we do get to play a lot of games against Winnipeg and Columbus so I can't complain too loudly.
What if they just went by points? Top 16 teams pointwise get in to playoffs, regardless of their confervision (really liked that word. nicely done). You reach the problem of people doing well based on schedules, but it could happen.
@BenSanborn This was my thinking. It wouldn't be as much fun as seeing you face people in your own division the first two rounds, but would be more fair until the league expands and can fill in those two spots.
@BenSanborn I'd be happy with that, but they seem to want to have conference playoffs. I'd be happy with anything that had the same chance to get into the playoffs for all the teams.
I honestly believe they are setting up the league for expansion. With hockey's fanbase continually growing over the last few years it seems the right way to go. I think Winnipeg has proven if you give Canadians a team they will support them outright regardless of how good they are. I also think Seattle needs a team. It is a huge sports town and with how well the Sounders were received I can only imagine a hockey team would be met with enthusiasm.
@JOHNxJOHN What about Milwaukee getting a team? It seems like a good market.
@EME I honestly have no idea why Milwaukee does not have a team. It's right in the middle of America's hockey hotbed (MI,WI,MN). But Wisconsiners (or whatever) tend to like their football. I go to Michigan Tech and know a lot of people from WI, and none of them seem to really care about professional hockey.
@JOHNxJOHN Quebec City's been clammering for a team since the Nordiques left. The CAD is strong again, absolutely no reason not to expand there. And there must be a northern US city in need of a team. But then the problem comes with Phoenix's inevitable move.
@EME There has to be a market for a team. I know Kansas City has been trying to attract a team for a while now. And just about any city in Canada wants a team. the problem is most new cities would be really small market teams and would have trouble hanging in there with the bigger clubs. Small market teams can survive, but in the current economic climate it's hard to get one started.
@JOHNxJOHN I mean, Im looking at that map at the top and thinking of big cities but I guess that really wouldnt help the arrangement of teams
@JOHNxJOHN hmmm...must be from all that inbreeding. What about Salt Lake City?
Do we really think Winnipeg will cause enough to even be considered our 8th "contender"? I wish we could just play the Islanders, Winnipeg and Ottawa and just presidents trophy every year.
And no, you aren't taking crazy pills... that's just the water. Not saying this isn't a problem, I'm just not freaking out about it.
I agree. Other teams are too but det esp. Its bullshit. They should just put columbus in the east with pitt's division, moved n.j to the caps div. Put winn with the canucks and minn with us. Problem solved
another PD article mentioned that maybe the NHL is planning for the future when Phoenix inevitably moves to the east. this would also open the doors to expansion in a town like hartford or quebec if winnipeg 2.0 works out. if that happened, there would be 7 in A, 8 in B, 8 in C and 8 in D. then seattle would probably get a team, or kansas city.
so yeah, right now, the divisions look unfair-ish, but i think we'll have a 32 team league within 5 years. financial implications be damned.
I see what you are saying, to add to that the two 8 team divisions are clearly stronger from top to bottom at this point so the fight for those spots is even more increased.
It seems to me that the fair thing to do would do a combined standings between one 8-team division and one 7- team division and seed them 1-8 based on points.
or just expand to 32 teams
@Jordan_Reis I'd even say that three teams from each division, last two seeds are wild cards.
They could take the overall standings and seed 1-16 then do a 1 v 16, 2 v 15 and so on.
It looks like the top team would get the easy draw but they wouldn't. as is right now Minnesota would play Buffalo and Pittsburgh would get San Jose. @moorecha
If they did this last year Detroit still would have pulled Phoenix and the Rangers wouldn't have made it. Both Calgary and Dallas had more points yet didn't make it because they were in a more competitive conference. @moorecha