The NHL’s decision to realign into 4 conferences with the Washington Capitals being placed into a conference with former Patrick Division rivals was welcomed enthusiastically by D.C. fans like me. Being assigned into the same conference as the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins is something Caps fans have been waiting for since the Southeast Division was created. Simply put D.C. fans don’t get fired up for playing South Florida, Atlanta or Tampa Bay like they due New York and Philadelphia. The Carolina Hurricanes also come along from the SE.
I was able to get comments from fans of the Flyers, Penguins, Hurricanes and as of December 22, an Islanders fan. Here is what they had to say:
Chris Grovich, Philly sports fan and editor of Black Shoe Diaries:
I could take or leave the Hurricanes, but otherwise I think it’s a fantastic move by the NHL. As a selfish Flyers fan, it preserves most everything we want. Great to have the Caps back in the group. Washington is a mid-Atlantic/northeast city, and they belong in that kind of division for hockey. The NBA can keep doing whatever they’re doing, mostly because they’re stupid and irrelevant.
Sam B., The Maryland Bureau Chief Emeritus:
My thoughts are that I am in favor of it. This new format is similar to the Patrick Division which featured the Pens, Isles, Devils, Rangers, etc. I admit that I was concerned by some of the realignment talk that had the Pens joining the southeast division. I think the Pens have a great rivalry with the Caps, but there is no spark with the hurricanes, panthers or lightning. I am especially delighted with the new playoff format. I think its good for these teams to have rivalries intact and hopefully become even stronger.
Muha, La Coupe Hauxer Pengyunz “governor”:
1. Geographically, it makes sense, and it does keep a number of traditional rivalries intact. As you stated on the blog, now it evens out the entire La Coupe Hauxer quite nicely, and should all the teams make it into the playoffs, we could sort of change up the format a bit and tie outcomes based on seeding and finish.
2. Oddly enough, this opens up the possibility for expansion in the “C” and “D” Conferences. I’m not sure how scheduling 32 teams over 82 games will work in this capacity (that might beg to expand the schedule a little further, especially since there are some instances where some teams get a week off between games). If that’s the case, if Winnipeg can get the Jets back, who’s to say that the Whalers can’t return to Hartford, and there have been rumors that the league has wanted to move the Houston Aeros up from the AHL for years. It might even get the Balsillie monkey of Bettman’s back.
3. Going back to the rivalries, that was a major concern for a lot of fans when the talk of realignment began this summer. One of the biggest rumors was the entire East was going to be shuffled into something unrecognizable, especially since it included bringing Detroit in. I mean, if you go back to the “Original Six”, yeah, they’re part of the “West”, but that was already thrown out the window after the (now) Jets came in and took the Leafs with them. It really doesn’t make sense to make moves that affect such “traditions”, plus, it’s just weird.
4. Now to the next point: NAMING. I think one of the worst things the league did was abolish the “traditional” division/conference names back in the late ’90s. It’s what set the NHL apart from every other “major” sports league for a long time due to the unique nature of hockey. That needs to be brought back. Sure, geography can be helpful, and it’s more of an American thing, but hockey is clearly NOT an American thing, at least at its roots.
Adam P., Hurricanes season ticket holder and Western Pennsylvania expatriot:
I’m actually excited about having the return to the divisional playoff format under the new alignment. The Southeast Division never had any real rivalries because 1) the division was never good enough to get multiple teams into the playoffs often. Southeast teams never faced each other in the playoffs. 2) The Caps were more often than not focused on their old divisional rivals. So the opportunity for the Canes to have real division rivals is great. Unfortunately, the concern of many down here is that the team will not be able to compete with the bigger market and highly competitive teams within the new division. The hope is that this will serve as a wake up call to management in the style of player an money given to a player to be competitive and make the playoffs.
I grew up with the Patrick Division so this is almost like being a kid again. In the divisional format, you really learn to hate a team…not just hate a team but HATE a team. I think it will be good for the newer Canes fans to experience it. It’s a shame that feeling never developed within the old division.
Be sure to check out Adam’s flickr stream for lots of quality hockey photos.
Some dissent to realignment from Long Islander Devon Edwards of Onward State
I’m not old enough to remember the Islanders as anything but an Atlantic Division team, so the historical basis has zero appeal and the opportunity to be playing the Hurricanes and Capitals more isn’t particularly exciting, either. But really, the big concern is with the playoff structure. For a team that’ll be on the bubble, it’s harder to break through with the established contenders in our divisions. It’s easier to contend for an 8-seed now than it will be to fight for a 4-seed in the future. I don’t think the league or playoff structures were broken, and so I’m apprehensive about a unnecessary massive overhaul. Especially one that only serves to diminish the Islanders shot at contention in the foreseeable future.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get commentary from the Devils fan I know, so I had to go with this:
I don’t know any Rangers
or Islanders fans, so no comments from them.