Realigning the NHL with Math

Realigning the NHL with MathWhy Edmonton and Calgary Should Play in Different DivisionsJackson Blair TaylorBlockedUnblockFollowFollowingDec 3This is the best possible NHL divisional alignment, according to the immutable laws of math. Read on!On Tuesday, December 4, get ready for a massive party in Seattle, where it is widely expected that the city will be awarded the 32nd NHL franchise. A passionate fanbase will finally enjoy a winter sport after the loss of the Supersonics in 2008, and Vancouver will gain a regional rival.Adding a 32nd team will also require the NHL to realign its divisions. Currently, the NHL has 8 teams in the Pacific Division and 7 teams in the Central. Seattle will almost certainly be placed in the Pacific Division, leading to a temporary imbalance within the Western Conference. There has been plenty of internet chatter about which team will be moved to compensate, with the leading candidate being the Arizona Coyotes due to a lack of traditional rivalries and their position as the team that sits the furthest to the east within the Pacific Division.But what if teams were assigned to divisions solely based on compactness, without any regard whatsoever given to classic rivalries? What would the divisions look like?Fortunately, this is a solvable problem. By calculating the distance between every NHL city, we can separate the slate of 32 teams into 4 divisions in a way that minimizes the total travel distance within the divisions.ASSUMPTIONS AND DISCLAIMERS1) I used the closest major airport to each NHL team’s arena as the origin/destination point for each city. This creates a few interesting edge cases — for example, both New York teams have their origin/destination point listed as La Guardia Airport, which makes their effective travel distance between each other 0 miles in our model. While this is demonstrably incorrect, the purpose of a model is to make useful predictions, not to be 100% precise. Besides, the recommendation that two teams who play in the same city should stay in the same division will not shock anyone.2) It is worth stressing again that this model gives no weight to keeping traditional rivals together..It may feel counter-intuitive to have Buffalo and Toronto playing in different divisions, but recall that the goal of this exercise is to minimize total travel distance..Note that the “old distance” condition consists of the current divisional alignment with Phoenix in the Central, consistent with popular speculation.It’s an extremely close call, but the NHL would save 530 miles of divisional travel distance by swapping Edmonton into the Central Division and keeping Phoenix in the Pacific.. More details

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