Welcome back to the Winnipeg Jets! Now we get to pay attention to the messy business of realignment.
Apparently Detroit was promised a few years ago that in the event of realignment, they would be the first team to move from the West to the East. This agreement was made when Toronto switched to the East following a string of expansion in the West. For this season, Winnipeg is playing in the Southeast division which is amusing in itself. Moving Winnipeg to the West is a no-brainer but what else happens is another question entirely. Fulfilling the promise made to Detroit would be the easiest option but may not be the best since both Columbus and Nashville both have logical claims to be in the East.
Detroit recently offered the concession to the NHL that they will stay in the West if they don’t have to visit teams in California and Western Canada more than once. Can’t really blame them, travel is expensive and time consuming. Detroit is almost as west as Winnipeg is south. This compromise, however, opens up a Pandora’s box of scheduling issues. Why should Dallas have to visit Vancouver and Edmonton twice if Detroit doesn’t.
Maybe there’s another way to think about scheduling. What if we ignore the conferences when it comes to creating the schedule and deciding who plays who. Instead, we can consider the proximity of the divisions the teams belong in regardless of conferences. It doesn’t really make sense for teams in the Central division to visit Vancouver twice a year and yet travel to the Southeast only every other year. Nashville is only 733 km from Raleigh, NC (1 game per year) and yet 760km from Detroit (6 games per year) and a whopping 3270km from Vancouver (4 games per year.) What if, for scheduling purposes, the Central and Southest divisions were paired due to their proximity.
There are a few different configurations where this is possible.
- Teams play other teams in their division 6 times. (24 games)
- Teams play 4 games against each team in 2 neighbouring divisions (40 games):
- Northwest plays Northeast and Pacific
- Pacific plays Northwest and Central
- Central plays Pacific and Southeast
- Southeast plays Central and Atlantic
- Atlantic plays Southeast and Northeast
- Northeast plays Northwest and Atlantic
- 16 remaining games for the two remaining divisions the way they are today.
Another configuration might be not to daisy chain the divisions like that such that:
- Teams play other teams in their division 6 times (24 games)
- Teams play 4 games against teams in the closest division (20 games)
- Teams play 2 games against teams in two divisions further away (20)
- Teams play 1 game against teams in two divisions farthest away (10 games)
- Teams play 6 extra games
In the latter example, Pacific teams might play Northwest teams 4 times, Central and Southeast teams twice and Atlantic and Northeast teams once.
I think either of these would help cut down on the average travel. This would probably help out every team except for those in the Pacific. Then again, I don’t think there isn’t any solution where teams in the Pacific don’t get the worst travel by virtue of geography.
This should also improve some regional rivalries (Nashville and Carolina) and provide for more games between Canadian teams. I don’t think Vancouver would mind getting a visit from Montreal and Toronto every year and vice versa. Hopefully teams in the Southeast and Pacific could form a similar rivalry.
Another version involving an 84 game schedule
- 6 games against division rivals
- 4 games against teams in the closest division
- 3 games against teams in the two next closest divisions, alternating year to year who gets the extra home game
- 1 game against teams in the other two divisions