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Cannon Blasts: Let’s re-align the NHL

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That and more of this week’s links

Tampa Bay Lightning v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

This week, in a different part of the internet, some friends and I were discussing ways to fix the NHL’s playoff system. On one hand, it has succeeded in creating compelling first round match-ups and strengthening rivalries in the new divisions. On the other hand, this season has revealed the current imbalance between divisions. For example, as I write this on Sunday afternoon, the Metro division contains SEVEN of the top 16 teams in the league.

One friend suggested that the schedules should be more balanced. His solution? Each conference has four divisions of four teams each (once Seattle joins, obviously). In the following schedule, two interdivision/intraconference teams would have only three games different rather than seven as they do currently.

Same division: 2 home/2 away (12 games total)
Same conference, different division: 2 home/1 away for half, 1 home/2 away for the other half (36 games total)
Different conference: 1 home/1 away (32 games total)

This adds up to 80 games. While I’m sure the owners would complain about losing one game of revenue, I don’t think the players would complain about a lighter schedule.

Another way to make the scheduling more convenient and travel easier? Divisions will be strictly geographic, allowing teams to schedule road trips of four games to play each member of another division. For this, I turned to another friend, Andrew McGuire, who is a professional in GIS mapping. He plotted the 32 teams to create eight divisions with the smallest possible distance between all members.

@McGuire_GIS

Not everyone will be happy about this, I’m sure, but I think it makes sense geographically and there will be some great rivalries in each. For Columbus, in the short term it stinks to still be grouped with Ovechkin and Crosby, but from a travel standpoint it’s a great fit.

For the playoffs, each division champion would qualify and be guaranteed home ice for the first round. Then the next four best records in the conference would get in. For this exercise I’ll assign the worst wild card to the top division winner (and so on) but a fun idea could be to let the division winners pick their first round opponent instead. What if, last year, Tampa decided to play Toronto instead of Columbus? Teams would be re-seeded based on record for the second round.

Here is what the standings and playoff bracket would look like, based on Sunday afternoon’s records:

Re-aligned NHL standings

Rk Team Pts Rk Teams Pts
Rk Team Pts Rk Teams Pts
D4 Winnipeg 72 D1 Boston 94
Minnesota 71 W3 NY Islanders 78
Chicago 66 NY Rangers 74
Detroit 35 New Jersey 62
. . . . . .
D1 St. Louis 88 D4 Toronto 78
W1 Colorado 85 Montreal 69
W2 Dallas 81 Buffalo 66
Arizona 72 Ottawa 58
. . . . . .
D3 Edmonton 76 D3 Washington 84
W3 Vancouver 74 W1 Philadelphia 83
W4 Calgary 73 W2 Pittsburgh 80
Seattle 0 W4 Columbus 76
. . . . . .
D2 Vegas 80 D2 Tampa Bay 87
Anaheim 60 Carolina 75
San Jose 60 Florida 73
Los Angeles 54 Nashville 72

Re-aligned NHL playoffs

Rk WEST x Rk EAST
Rk WEST x Rk EAST
D1 St. Louis D1 Boston
W4 Calgary W4 Columbus
. . . . .
D2 Vegas D2 Tampa Bay
W3 Vancouver W3 NY Islanders
. . . . .
D3 Edmonton D3 Washington
W2 Dallas W2 Pittsburgh
. . . . .
D4 Winnipeg D4 Toronto
W1 Colorado W1 Philadelphia

What do you think of this format and the re-aligned divisions? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to offer your suggestions.

The week that was

Game #64: CBJ 4 OTT 3 (OT)
Game #65: MIN 5 CBJ 4
Game #66: MIN 5 CBJ 0
Game #67: CBJ 5 VAN 3

The trade deadline was on Monday, and the Jackets made a couple moves: Sonny Milano for Devin Shore and Markus Hannikainen for a conditional 7th round pick. The Cannon Cast crew broke it down that night. In that episode, we also said goodbye to Ryan, who is stepping away due to impending fatherhood. Congrats, good luck, and a heartfelt thank you from me to Ryan. He did a tremendous job setting up the podcast and his contributions to the site will be missed.

With all the roster turnover, it was a wild weekend for Calvin Thurkauf’s father. He missed Thurkauf’s NHL debut in Nashville but was able to be there for his home debut on Monday.

I reviewed the month of February. Summary: it was bad. And yet, as Will pointed out, the Jackets somehow aren’t dead yet.

elpalito checked in on the rest of the Metro division.

Monsters Mash

Another frustrating weekend for Cleveland, with a bad loss and then a close loss to Belleville. They’ve just lost too many players to Columbus this season. It’s a shame, because the staff and players have accomplished a lot that won’t show up in the standings.

On deck

Wednesday: at Calgary
Friday: at Edmonton
Sunday: at Vancouver

The Western Canada trip! It started terribly last March, but that inspired a team dinner in Vancouver before playing the Canucks, and the season turned around at that point as a red-hot Jackets made the playoffs. The rest, as they say, is history.

Around the League

This is a great article about American hockey legend Cammi Granato doing work as a pro scout for the Seattle franchise. In addition to the milestone of being a woman in that field, I found it interesting to learn about what exactly a pro scout does during a game. Seattle is doing a lot of different things in building their staff, and I’m curious to see how this impacts how they end up building the roster of players. 46% of the staff is female and 24% is non-white. A hire I’m very pleased with is Namita Nandakumar as a Senior Quanitative Analyst. I’ve been a big fan of hers on Twitter, both for being a brilliant statistical mind but more importantly for being laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Another female player working as a pro scout is Blake Bolden. She’s a Cleveland native!

Ohio Sports Update

The Dayton Flyers basketball team is ranked in the top 5 in the country, in case you hadn’t heard (glares at MrSwift). This AP article examines how the community has rallied around the team after a trying 2019. Dayton will be hosting ESPN’s College Gameday this weekend on the day of their home finale. I’m happy for Dayton’s run but I’ll be hopeful my George Washington Colonials can salvage a transitional season with a big road win.

Sunday was a big day in Columbus sports. Before Columbus hosted Vancouver, the Columbus Crew opened their season with a home victory. Offseason signing Lucas Zelarayan scored the game’s lone goal. Then the Ohio State men’s basketball team followed that up with an emphatic home victory over Michigan.

For those looking for live hockey to watch this week, on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Ice Haus you can see the final of the Columbus region of the high school state playoffs. New Albany upset top seed Upper Arlington, 3-2 on Sunday and will face Olentangy Liberty, the winner of a 7-4 intradistrct battle over Olentangy Orange. The winner advances to the final four, which takes place at Nationwide Arena on the 14th and 15th.

Ohio State’s men’s hockey team will host Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday (and Sunday, if necessary) in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament.

Play me out

There is a segment of people who like Tom Waits, and I don’t get it. Like, who could find that voice pleasing? That being said, I can accept that he has songwriting skill but - like Bob Dylan - it’s better in the hands of more gifted singers and musicians. Like Warren Haynes, for example. He has made great original music with his band, Gov’t Mule, but they’re a sneakily great cover band, working multiple covers into every set list. Here’s a Waits cover by them that is relevant for the Jackets this week:

I don’t need no makeup/I got real scars