As the NHL looks to re-align their conferences, the Pittsburgh Penguins won't see too many changes compared to a lot of the teams around the league. But for the playoff picture, buckle up, it's going to be a wild ride.
Have you guys heard about the realignment plans for next season? Nothing’s set in stone yet, but it seems like the league is working with players to move towards four “conferences” instead of three divisions making up two conferences. Here’s how the proposed plan looks-
Really, it’s bigger news for many of the other teams around the league than it is for the Penguins. Pittsburgh keeps all of their current Atlantic division rivals (Philadelphia and the three area New York teams) and welcome Washington, Columbus and Carolina to the new “conference”. It makes sense, geographically, and it would be a good thing for especially for Columbus and Washington to get grouped with teams that make more sense for them.
Eventually also you can tell with the unbalanced nature of things, it looks perfect for the league to sneak in two more franchises (where, who knows) in order to even things out at four of the eight team conferences. How that will jockey out remains to be seen, but it’s nice to be on the outside and look in now that the Pens franchise is tied to Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future.
That’s all well and good, but keep in mind that the playoff format is about to be changed too. The top four teams from each conference would play each other. The Flyers Rangers and Capitals are all teams that have and will be spending to the salary cap. The Islanders and Blue Jackets are in the building stages and both could (or hope to at least) be competitive teams in the near-future. The Hurricanes are kind of in the middle, as a team that has some success, rebuilds and tries to compete without having a large payroll. Still, with the Staals, Jeff Skinner and Cam Ward not going anywhere, they’re not going to be pushovers.
It’s going to be a tough, tough division. That’s going to make for a good league and good hockey, but right now it definitely seems a lot easier to come in the top eight of the 15 team Eastern Conference than to have to finish ahead of 4 of 7 of these tough “conference” opponents every season. And it probably means a whole lot of playoff series in the near future with the likes of the Rangers, Flyers and Caps. Bring on the hate, let’s go.