Half-Cocked Analysis: How Realignment Affects The Devils

Corey Griffin

So the NHL is officially realigning starting with 2013-14 season and the changes will last at least two seasons before the NHLPA throws a fit and changes everything in two years (more on that in a bit). While the Devils’ new “division” might not seem that different from their current one, there are a few things every Devils fan should know about the “new” NHL.

So here goes a few bullet points with little to no factual information but tons of sarcasm about a process that should’ve been done two years ago:

  1. Confusing playoff seeding: That’s right folks! It’s the wild card era! What exactly is the “wild card era”? It’s where a team from one division can win the other division’s “championship” in the playoffs because they finished with more points than the bottom-feeders in the other division. Sound confusing? It is! Get used to asking the following question a lot the next two seasons: “Wait, so the 5th seed from this division is the 8th seed overall and plays the the top seed from another division for the chance to win THEIR division championship?” Yup.
  2. All Staal Everything: Hide your kids, hide your wife! The Staal brothers are coming! Already burdened by having to deal with an invasion of the boring Staal (Marc) seven times a year (four this year), the bars and hotels of Newark now have to deal with the real troublemakers in the family. With the Carolina Hurricanes joining the Devils’ division, it means Jordan and Eric Staal will invade the area at least twice a year. And we all know what happens when those two get a few drinks in ‘em, right?
  3. Three or four easy wins a year: Because the Devils now get to play the Blue Jackets four or five teams a year depending on the season and the newfangled scheduling matrix. I say three or four because you gotta figure John Davidson’s steady hand is good for one win per team, right?
  4. Seven REALLY late games every year: If you like staying up until 1 a.m. to watch the Devils seven times a year, you’re really going to love the new schedule! The Devils will play EVERY team on the road, which means at least seven 10 p.m. ET (or later) starts against the “Pacific” division. I’m sure the fellas at MSG+ are salivating over this ratings bonanza!
  5. Western Canada comes East: “Damn, you mean I don’t get to see the Coyotes and Flames this year?! Why did I even get season tickets?” is what every Devils season ticket holder was probably saying the past few years. Well good news for you, folks! Instead of more games against teams you actually care about seeing, you get to see the (likely exhausted) dregs of the West drag through the area on a compressed East coast road trip. I bet the secondary market’s gonna eat those babies up!
  6. Two Mike Milbury Ovechkin rants per year: Because who doesn’t love Mike Milbury’s Ovechkin rants? No one, that’s who! And now with the Capitals in the same division as the Devils, those rants are semi-relevant to the Devils. YAY!
  7. Relocation, expansion and a whiny NHLPA change everything: The union agreed to these “sweeping changes” with the caveat that everything is reviewed after the 2014-15 season. So even though much of this realignment is probably a really good thing for the NHL as a whole, expect them to whine about something during that review process inn order to get a tiny bit of leverage over a league that can pretty much lock them out whenever the CBA ends and not have to worry about a thing. But hey — it’s partnership! Oh — and when the Coyotes move to Seattle and the NHL puts two expansion teams in Canada I’m sure that won’t affect this at all. Like, you know, the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg and causing this whole thing in the first place.

So there you have it folks, seven things Devils fans need to know about realignment. If you want more actual details (and why would you), you can go here, here, here and here.

Discuss: New NHL Realignment

The big news coming from yesterday was that the league had finally agreed upon a new realignment for the league next season. Currently the NHL is broken up into two conferences containing 16 teams. With the new realignment it will be broken up into 4 “conferences”  The 4 “conference”  go as follows:

The way the playoffs would go is the top 4 teams of each “conference” are in the playoffs. 1 vs 4, 2 vs 3. The winners of those series play each other for the “conference” championship. Once the “conference” champions are determined, they are reseeded based on regular season points. 1 vs 4, 2 vs 3. The winners play for the Stanley Cup. In theory we can have an all west or all east Stanley Cup finals.

So for the Devils it is essentially the Atlantic division with the inclusion of the Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals. This fits well for the Devils because instead of worrying about 15 other teams making the playoffs they have to worry about 6 other teams.

Based on their conference I think the Devils are still a bubble playoff team. Next season (based on this season’s rosters) I could see the “conference” standings going like this.

Pittsburgh
Philadelphia
NY Rangers
Washington
Devils
Carolina
NY Islanders

To be honest I could see the bottom 4 teams being interchangeable unless Washington starts to pick it up. I personally really like the format. I think it will promote great rivalries. And if the Devils are playing the Capitals, Penguins, Flyers, Rangers more the Devils could see more air time on NBC which bring on some new fans. I think overall its a win win for the Devils.