Allow me to not start quoting old Adams Division rivalry stories from the 80's. Sorry, but I've kind of blocked out those old memories because Montreal and Boston facing Buffalo at that time was like the Jets and Pats kicking the Bills' asses today. I hate the NHL's new realignment plan. It is not about the fans or rivalries, it is about frequent flyer miles for the Western Conference teams.
Typical NHL, they are trying to save money by travel expenses. This is why they are a garage league.
There are so many levels as to why I'm not thrilled with this:
I don't know what it is, but I just can't go into the pits of my stomach to drum up some old stories of the Boston/Montreal/Buffalo rivalry from the 80's. Why? Because it wasn't a rivalry. Those teams kicked our asses every year in the playoffs. There was a reason why the NHL decided to goto the conference format in the first place. It was because fans were sick and tired of seeing the same teams during the playoffs every year. It became stagnant and the NHL switched it. Then, after the lockout, the NHL tried doing it again by having division teams play each other 8 times a year. Guess what? People got bored of it and the NHL got out of it. Put yourself in America's shoes, do you think they want to see the same 1st round match-up every year? They don't. They couldn't stand seeing the Bills make the Super Bowl four straight times. Unless you are in those two cities, America wants fresh match-ups.
You want to know what makes a rival?
It's not about the front of the jersey or the proximity from each city, it is about the players themselves. If the teams are good, it can become a rivalry. Where was that Boston/Buffalo rivalry from 1996-2007? Oh, it didn't exist because Boston was terrible during that stretch. What about today? How is that Sens/Sabres rivalry looking? You remember when we wanted to destroy every fiber of their existence during 2005-2007? I don't know about you, but I don't feel that way about Ottawa today. When teams falter and players change, it's hard for me to really care about those games. I don't care about the Bills/Dolphins rivalry anymore because the teams stink now.
All I'm saying is that the people who are behind this move can only defend it by going back in time as a kid and remembering the golden years of the Sabres getting beat constantly in the playoffs. It always feels great to talk about rivalries, but really, the actual action lasts for like a few seasons it seems like nowadays.
We only cherish what happened when we were kids and then try to crowbar into our adulthood with sports. I mentioned the Ottawa/Buffalo rivalry and I bet if you are 30 and above, you don't feel it's much of a rivalry like you do about Boston/Montreal. Why? Because it goes back to your childhood. I'm sure 20 years from now, the 10-year old who saw Chris Neal destroy Chris Drury will feel the same way about the Sens like the old-timers feel about Habs/B's.
Sorry, Back to the Future fans, but Pierre Turgeon and Cam Neely ain't walking through that door.
Lastly, for the fans who get up every morning and hate the Bruins, does this really add to it? I think if you hated Boston, it's not going to heat up anymore. It just feels good to talk about it.
You know that running gag that seems to happen every year around Christmas about the NFC/AFC West? "Really? Do we have to send a 8-8 team to the playoffs? If only the Bills were in one of those divisions." Well guess what? That could become the norm with the inter-conference playoffs. What if the 3-4 seeds in the Conference B-funk have a worse record than the 5-6 seeds in Conference D-bag? Guess what? 5-6 are staying home. Can you imagine if that happens to the Sabres? My goodness, Twitter would blow up.
I'm sure we are in agreement that the NHL is definitely the 4th major sport in this country, right? So, when you are constantly going up against the giants of the sports world (NBA, NFL and WWE-Kidding) you should be a risk taker. You want to try stuff that is innovative. Stuff that comes out of left field. Things that wouldn't happen in other leagues. Why not have a random drawing every year for divisions? Maybe, I'm crazy (I am), but I would think having a revolving division would be really cool. I'd rather have Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh in my division for entertainment sakes than the same teams every year. Again, I'm bored with the Sens and Leafs. I just want something new to sink my teeth into. My idea is so much cooler than rehashing the 80's plan and adding the Florida teams. BTW, I loved how people were begging for Detroit not to come into our division. Are we that scared of our own shadow? Why don't we realign with Rochester and the Albany River Rats? Joe Finley 6 times a year? Sign me up! Let us just have an easy route to the playoffs every year. Blah.
Less Flyers and make more room for the Wild?
If there was one rival I loved for the last 15 years, it was the Flyers. No, it wasn't about the rivalry from the 70's or Steve Shields/Garth Snow or Brian Campbell's hit, it was because the Flyers were always good. They were fun to play. This goes back to my original point about the individuals making the rivalry. Now, we get to only see them twice a year? We get to see them as many times as the fricken Wild or Oilers? Huh?! Look, I wanna see every team and all, but take away a division game or something. Flyers and Sabres twice a year is a joke. Yeah, I'm not exactly in love with the Northeast Division, am I?
Alright, I'll get behind the reseeding for the final four. Unless it is Chicago or Detroit, America doesn't give a crap about the Western Conference. By reseeding, you could have Detroit vs LA or Boston vs Pittsburgh for the Finals. That's a lot better than San Jose vs Tampa Bay. Of course, you could get Vancouver and Nashville. Yeah, NBC would move those games to OLN or MSNBC.
Look, I know playoff hockey is great. I'm sure someone (Cough: Jeremy White) will repeatedly mention during the 2013 playoffs that he LOVES the Boston/Montreal and Buffalo/Toronto first round match-ups and that the people who hated the NHL alignment were complete tools. Maybe, he'll be right. Playoff hockey is awesome. My biggest qualm is just having 36 games against 6 opponents. I want freshness. I want new match-ups. But really, does the NHL care what I think?
Here's the bottom line in all of this: The NHL did this to save money. They didn't do this because the fans demanded it. They did it because of western start times and airplane food. The NHL continues to not be innovative and are just constantly trying to serve their owners instead of the fans. Seriously, what league cares about travel? I don't see the NBA complaining about it. So, yes, I'm not buying the Adams Division non-sense or old stories from father time (Robie or Danny Gare) about the 80's.
But what can you expect from the NHL? They always seem to be stuck in the 80's.