The National Hockey League’s memo on realignment spelled out what many had suspected: Two 8-team divisions, two 7-team divisions, and a schedule between them all that somehow makes an attempt at balance.
Specifically, via Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports, it breaks down like this for the Midwest and Pacific divisions of seven teams:
32 games vs. Eastern Conference (one home, one away vs. each opponent).
21 games vs. other division in Western Conference (teams with the extra home game will be rotated every season).
29 games vs. own division (you will play one team four times instead of five).
And there’s your 82 games. One problem: The math doesn’t work.
Let’s take the Pacific Division as an example:
ANA XX 4 5 5 5 5 5
COL 4 XX 5 5 5 5 5
EDM 5 5 XX 4 5 5 5
LAK 5 5 4 XX 5 5 5
PHO 5 5 5 5 XX 4 5
SJS 5 5 5 5 4 XX 5
VAN 5 5 5 5 5 5 XX
Puck Daddy reader Danne D. has been banging this drum since realignment was leaked: 7-team divisions can not play exactly 29 games. There’s going to always be an orphan team in the division without an opponent to play four games against.
It’s something Friedman, Pierre LeBrun and didn’t pick up on initially, and you can add us to that list too. But the memo the NHL did address the issue:
One team from each division plays one fewer game inside their division, and one additional game inside their conference.
So, in theory, the Vancouver Canucks and the Chicago Blackhawks would exchange pleasantries a fourth time next season if both teams were squeezed out of playing any of their own divisional opponents four times. Which is not a bad thing at all.
This will all be alleviated when the NHL expands in a few years and balances the conferences. My pet theory, FWIW: The NHL adds teams in Seattle and Toronto to the Western Conference.
Yes, Toronto: That way, the Rakes or the Blowers (you know, the anti-Leafs) can welcome all the Western Conference teams to the Centre of the Hockey Universe while the East comes to the ACC. Double the pleasure for the ticket-buying public of Toronto.