So it's official, next season we're changing up the schedule, the division (no more), the conferences and the playoffs. This post is similar to what I wrote on Benched Whale a little bit earlier, but with a focus on the Lightning.

So if you have been ignoring all the re-alignment talk, here is the breakdown:


And here is what those conference look like visually (map by my friend Cassie @dagmar27):

The key points:
1. Instead of divisions and conferences, now we get 4 conferences. The conferences don't have names yet but we can refer to them based on geography for now) There are two 7 team conferences (Northeast and Atlantic) and two 8 team conferences (the Pacific and Central)
2. You will play a home and home game against every team not in your division, so that means you'll see every team at the Forum at least once per season. Gone are the every odd year schedule to see Thornton, Kesler, Doughty, Kopitar, Toews and Nugent-Hopkins in Tampa
3. The rest of the games will be against teams in your own conference. In the conference with 7 teams, we'll play six games against each team in their conference. In our conference of 8 teams, they'll alternate playing some of the teams six times and year and some of the teams five times a year.

In the playoffs*:
1. The top 4 teams of each conference makes it into the playoffs. You will then play against your own division for the first two rounds, so to win, you'll have to play your way out of the conference
2. After winning the conference, the top 4 teams will be re-seeded according to points. So the semi-final and SCF could be against anyone in the other 3 conferences.

*The playoff re-seeding idea hasn't been finalized, but this seems like the way its heading. What this means is that the Lightning could end up playing against the Pens or Philly in the SCF. That also means we could see Edmonton - Winnipeg SCF, which be a complete bomb as far a ratings go.

Click here to

Now thoughts on this:
  • I love having home and home games. As a ticket holder (in Vancouver), I have wanted to see this for a long time. It will be great to see every team come through our rink at least once a year
  • How the hell did we end up in the Northeast?
  • There are three Canadian teams in our Conference
  • That means lots of Leaf, Sens and Habs fans will be invading our building
  • The two Florida teams will get an automatic boost in sales from those Canadian snowbirds wanting to buy tickets
  • I still don't get how Florida is in this conference
  • We are getting screwed on travel
  • Rivalries may die out between clubs with the new playoff setup
  • But the first two rounds of the playoffs against your own conference will build new rivalries
  • This should be good for the teams like Nashville, Columbus, Dallas and St. Louis in growing their fanbases now that they don't have to play 9 or 10pm games against so many teams in the West
  • If Phoenix moves to somewhere in the East it seems like and easier switch with that conference going to 8 and the Pacific dropping down to 7 teams
  • Teams may get eliminated from playoff contention earlier since it's based on top teams in your conference. Puck Daddy explains this idea better here.
  • If you want some numbers on how much travel each team will have to do in this new format go here

So what do I think? I really like it for the home and home games for each team because I do want to have the opportunity to see every team come to whatever city I live in every year, not every odd year. That means I will get to see the Lightning in my hometown EVERY YEAR.

We are getting royally screwed on travel as compared to the other teams in our conference but I'm sure we'll get over it. The rivalry that we have started to build up against the Caps will soon die out, but I see big potential for rivalries against Canadian teams. Fans always complain about when Canadians come to the Forum and invade the building...well it's going to happen more often. And hatred for things like this will build the rivalry between the fanbases.

Interesting to note that there were 4 BOG's that voted against this proposed re-alignment. How much do you want to bet that 2 of those teams that voted against it were from Florida?