It will be an NHL season like no other as the league features a new divisional format that features the new All-Canadian division.
This new division features just the seven Canadian teams: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. And fans should be stoked!
The new division format schedules games only within the division. This means that Toronto and Montreal will be playing each other as many as nine times, maybe more.
We could think over 20 reasons why this new divisional format is a great new idea from the league. But let’s narrow it down to the top seven reasons why you should be excited:
Why the NHL’s Canadian Division will be great for hockey
Canadians will love this division for sure. But the Canadian division will revitalize interest in the NHL for many good reasons:
1. Watching extra competitive games
Although the Toronto Maple Leafs have emerged as the favorites, this is a wide open division. Whether it’s the Leafs, the Oilers, or even the Jets or Canadiens, six of the seven teams have a realistic chance of finishing on top.
The skill gaps between the teams aren’t as pronounced as in some divisions like the Central or Pacific. As such, each game played will mean more overall. Factor in that teams play only each other and we will get some highly competitive games that could lead to…
2. Creating more intense rivalries
There was a time when hockey rivalries were a real thing. Bench-clearing brawls, dramatic finishes, and authentic animosity became a consistent part of hockey lore.
But the gradual changes to the NHL’s rules and formats slowly turned it down. Or maybe players just became nicer to each other. Either way, if familiarity breeds contempt, then there will be a lot of it as the Canadian teams face each other repeatedly.
Expect a playoff atmosphere in several of the games, especially late in the season.
3. Seeing a Canadian team will make the final four
Thanks to this new format, it is guaranteed that there will be a Canadian team in the final four of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the new format, the top four teams in this division make the playoffs. Then these four play each other until one team emerges.
The last time a Canadian team made the semifinals was in 2018 when Winnipeg fell to Vegas in five games. After two long seasons, Canada will get another representative.
4. Getting to see the brightest young talent even more
You can make a strong case that the Canadian division has the richest collection of promising young talent. Canadian fans will get a chance to watch superstars like Connor McDavid (23), Auston Matthews (23), and Elias Pettersson (22) even more.
The best part is, every Canadian team has a rising star they can be proud of. The Jets have Kyle Connor (24), Montreal has Jesperi Kotkaniemi (20), and the Tkachuk brothers Matthew (23) and Brady (21) represent Calgary and Ottawa, respectively.
5. Limiting the spread of COVID
We couldn’t go through this article without addressing the elephant in the room. COVID is the reason why the NHL had to realign its divisions and the Canadian teams spending their entire regular season within its borders can help alleviate the spread of the virus.
Although this is not a guarantee that games won’t be affected by COVID, it will at least help stop things getting too chaotic. The NBA is starting to see the effects of running a full season. The NHL can avoid falling into this same predicament with its divisional format.
6. Keeping hockey closer to home
The reactions may be more mixed to the south, but Canadians are loving this new format. For the first time in league history, Canadian teams will play only each other. This is the closest thing to an All-Canadian league fans will get.
There may be some viable concern that fans will start to grow tired seeing Winnipeg face Calgary for the ninth time, but the fact the NHL only wants this to be a one-off, is why Canadians will cherish this beautiful aberration of a season.
7. Reigniting fans’ passion for hockey
It’s not just Canadian fans who will renew their love for the game, but fans everywhere. The renewed rivalries and division play will make hockey feel more sentimental for most fans.
Fans will find it easier to follow and care for their team and their division. No longer would fans have to toil through irrelevant matchups as each matchup will matter in both the standings and bragging rights.
Whether it’s the Canadian division or another division, this is an unprecedented season for the NHL and it’s one worth getting excited for.