Lacing Up: Division Discussion
Matt Paul: So we’ve now had a few weeks to let the new division titles sink in, I think I speak for both of us when I say the names are as bad as the alignments. My assumption is that the person who thought it was a good idea to have two uneven conferences is the person who thought it was a good idea to name a division the “Metropolitan.”
I hate to come across as whiny, but this was an easy problem to fix, and the NHL, as usual, completely botched it. Tell me I’m wrong, Josh, and I’ll stop…
Joshua Neal: I’m not going to stop you on this one, Matt. What a disaster. You’ve mentioned the uneven conference sizes already. That’s a problem that I think Gary Bettman’s version of the NHL will “solve” with premature expansion to 32 teams, negating any positive steam that the league may currently be gathering. It’s all part of his master plan!
But beyond being stuck in the “Metropolitan” Division – we get to watch the “Atlantic” Division name stay intact but go to 8 other teams, none of whom were in the Atlantic Division before? The last thing I think of when I think of Detroit or Toronto or Montreal is the Atlantic.
This has got to be some kind of joke, right?
Matt: It’s no joke — but it is a reminder that, despite having amazingly talented players and, as you said, gaining significant steam of late, the NHL remains a joke of a league when it comes to creativity.
What’s wrong with naming the divisions after legendary players? I’ve heard the argument that it’s a bad idea because of the potential to alienate young fans by selecting only older players or alienating older fans by selecting only more recent players. Hogwash! Divisions don’t alienate fans, and if they did, now would be about the perfect time to see the proof, given the mess of division names we’re witnessing.
Anyway, I feel as though historic names for divisions and conferences would be a way to bring about awareness of and honor the history of the NHL. Instead of alienating fans, it might serve to encourage fans to do some digging and learn about the pioneers of the game. I figure an explanation like this, however, might be well above the heads of the league’s braintrust.
Again, what’s wrong with the Wales and Campbell Conferences divided into the Norris, Smythe, Patrick, and Adams Divisions?
Josh: Nothing at all. I was really expecting things to go that way, thinking that the NHL had turned some kind of corner. If anything, these division names are more of a step back than anything else. In fact, if the NHL is going to use the “outdated” argument against division names, I suppose I will use a generation of geographically-challenged young NHL fans as counterargument #1, and the names of the NHL’s trophies as counterargument #2.
If we’re going to award the Norris Trophy, the Conn Smythe, and Jack Adams trophies, then what’s wrong with the different divisions bearing the names of legends? Apparently we are not bound to the tradition of the game in any sense other than that – the loose geographical connections work best.
And while I can’t complain about the way that the Penguins’ new division looks – the “Old Atlantic” plus Columbus, Carolina, and Washington – I must say that I am 1) upset that the Penguins will not be the “last champions of the Atlantic Division” and 2) confused as to how Tampa and Florida got so unlucky in being thrown to the wolves with a stacked “New Atlantic.”
Matt: It’s murky all around, Josh — but we should be numb to the mind-boggling decisions coming from headquarters by now. Ultimately, what matters most is the on-ice product, and it would appear that department is in a good place with so many young and charismatic players holding key positions on prominent teams. Unfortunately we can’t juxtapose today’s stars with those of the yesteryear through honorary division names.
Any last words, friend?
Josh: The NHL just seems to remain one of the most confusing leagues. I’m always frustrated to think how much more it could be if managed with some trendy, edgy, newer ideas as opposed to the “garage league” status it seems to embrace at so many junctures where change could be possible. I think that the management of the league underserves the wonderful sport to which it plays host.
And I know we all can’t wait for all the “Sidney Crosby is a Metro” jokes, either.