Sixteen teams now have their sights set on the playoffs, leaving fourteen teams (plus one) looking ahead to the offseason. Rerates, lotteries, and free agency become all consuming. But this season has an extra helping of fun in store for the league, as General Manager Derek Anthony and his Vegas Golden Knights bring their brand of expansion hockey to NEFHL. With all of the talk of protection, expansion and exposure, you’d be forgiven for thinking we were at a Stormy Daniels 60 Minutes taping, but one expansion related topic has gone largely undiscussed; realignment.
We here at the Oil Fire Blog have taken it upon ourselves to dig deeper into this topic and what it means for NEFHL and what it might have meant for NEFHL this season. As Commissioner Barry explained in a league memorandum, the new system will involve alignment into four new divisions (Pacific and Central in the West, and Atlantic and Metropolitan in the East). The playoff selection process will be modified slightly, with the top team from each division making the playoffs, and the top six teams in each conference advancing to the playoffs as wildcards. Additionally, the regular season schedules will be modified to take this new alignment into account.
For many teams, this realignment won’t result in a massive upheaval, but some teams will find themselves not only in new divisions with additional rivalries, but also within a new conference. While the commissioner assured us that most of these changes were an attempt to get teams into conferences and divisions with teams in the same time zone, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that all of the games start at the same time and that Barry drops the puck whenever the hell he pleases. Also, as usual, Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado are hanging out in their own zone doing their own thing. Detroit and Columbus will shift from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference, and Winnipeg will move from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference, which will be rounded out to an odd number of teams with the addition of Vegas. We assume that this makes room for an expansion team in Kamloops, some time around the 2020-21 season.
If the realignment were applied to the current season, San Jose, Colorado, Florida and the Rangers would still win their divisions, advancing to the playoffs. The Blue Jackets and Leafs, no longer division winners, would drop to sixth and seventh in their conference, respectively. Interestingly, Columbus moving from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference would push the Senators out of the playoff picture, while simultaneously allowing the Oilers to slide into the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Tune in next week when discuss Red Wings Love and expansion general managers with two first names.