Last week, the ECHL announced that they had absorbed seven former Central Hockey League teams, and rolled out new realigned divisions and and an altered playoff format to correspond with that move.
The Nailers are now in the North Division with the Cincinnati Cyclones, Evansville Icemen, Fort Wayne Komets, Indy Fuel, Kalamazoo Wings, and the Toledo Walleye. The top four teams in this and every other division in the league will make the post season. The seven new teams from the old CHL make up a new Central Division of the Western Conference.
Earlier today, it was announced one of the league’s new teams was added to the schedule, as the Nailers will play four road games against the Brampton (Ontario, Canada) Beast in slots that were originally scheduled as trips to Elmira on December 7th, as well as Florida and Orlando on January 16th-17th-18th. The Nailers home schedule was not effected.
The Nailers are not scheduled to see a lot of their division foes, in fact the two team they see the most in 14-15 are former Atlantic Division rivals and new members of the East Division, the Reading Royals (12 times) and Elmira Jackals (13 times).
The most the Nailers are scheduled to see of any of there new division rivals is Toledo seven times. They see Kalamazoo five times (4 on the road), as well Fort Wayne, Cincinnati, Evansville, and Indy four times a piece.
In total, 28 of the Nailers 72 regular season match ups are scheduled to be against North Division foes, compared to 38 contests against the East Division. What does this mean? If the playoffs race is tight this spring, which it usually is, there will be a lot of scoreboard watching going on.
Speaking of the playoffs, lets take a look at the new format. As previously mentioned, the top four finishers in each Division make the post season. The first two rounds are played within the Division, and are all best-of-7 series. So the final four will be made up of one team from each division.
This is not all that much different than the playoff bracket format the NHL used last season, and personally I like it. There is not much better in sports than a best-of-7 duel on the ice come spring, and the division bracket format makes it easy to follow.
One downside is that of the seven new teams, four of them are guaranteed a playoff spot, and one a shot at the Western Conference crown, which an argument can be made is not fair to the league’s previously existing teams. Even with that in mind, I think given the timing of the expansion, it was probably the best option.
Follow me on twitter @Andrewgrimm39