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McConnell's Blog: A Closer Look at the New Pacific Division

by Matt McConnell / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE -- When the 2013-14 NHL season arrives this October, so too will a revamped Pacific Division.

As legendary folksinger Bob Dylan once said, the times, they are a changin’.

Matt McConnell

Starting this fall, the Pacific Division will feature the Coyotes and the usual geographic suspects such as Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. But it will also take on three rivals from north of the border.

Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary… Come On Down!

Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars will leave the Pacific and begin life in the much more geographically friendly Central Division.

When it came to crafting new regions for realignment, the NHL opted for vertical geography. Instead of teams that are tightly clustered by region, the league achieved balance by grouping teams that predominately share the same time zone with the rest of the teams in the division.

In the case of Western Conference teams, including those in the Pacific Division, divisional foes are no further than a time zone away.

Is this great for fans? You bet. But it’s challenging for teams, both on and off the ice, with no exception for the Coyotes.

“Our travel is as difficult as any in the NHL,” Coyotes Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving said. “So whenever you can maintain a sense of normalcy with time zones and body clocks, it is helpful.”

In the west, the new set-up should make for a more fan friendly road schedule. In the Coyotes case, all divisional games will be played either in their home time zone or just one hour outside of it. And depending on the time of the season, many of the games will begin on Arizona time, which is great for fans watching on Fox Sports Arizona.

But with it comes travel. Lots of it. According to the website, the Coyotes will fly an estimated 52,633 miles this season, second most in the League behind San Jose’s 57,612. Treliving, who works closely with the league in crafting the team’s schedule, is first to admit the annual scheduling exercise is never an easy one given their geographic placement.

“Our travel always seems to be difficult, and this year, now playing every team home and away, it means additional travel out east,” he explained. “This will present several challenges for our players and coaches with the foremost being fatigue and finding the balance between rest, recuperation and practice.

“In a lot of ways, this schedule is similar to last season’s shortened one in that there is a compactness to the games. With it being an Olympics year, there are very few stretches of multiple days off between games. Staying healthy will be critical to having success, as will be finding and maintaining a consistency to our game.”

From a rivalry standpoint, Coyotes fans have to be pleased with the outcome of realignment. They will face each divisional opponent five times in the upcoming season, with the exception of San Jose, whom they will face four times. Canadian snowbirds in the Valley will be excited to learn Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver will each make three trips to Glendale while Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose will make two each.

“The new divisional set-up will be very competitive,” Treliving said. “We know how good Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose are, and then to add Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary will make for difficult matchups each night. There are strong rivalries and excellent teams throughout the division.”

Whether it’s television or rivalry-related, the new Pacific Division set-up appears to be a win-win for everyone. And don’t forget, fans in the division will also have the added luxury of seeing every team with every star come to town at least once a season.

Treliving added, “I do think it’s great for our fans that they get to see all of the NHL teams come to Glendale, and the new divisional set-up will maintain long-standing rivalries while adding new opponents.”

So with apologies to Dylan, come gather around hockey fans. Please heed the call. There’s about to be a battle inside Arena and it’ll be ragin’.

The line’s about to be drawn in the Pacific. ‘Cause the times, they are a changin’.

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