OHL re-alignment is needed.
When the Belleville Bulls announced they were moving to Hamilton after the 2014/15 season one question everyone had was: what division will they play in?
The easy answer that the OHL took was “the same one”. That’s how we had the Hamilton Bulldogs play in the OHL East division, while teams farther east than them (Niagara, Sudbury, Mississauga, Barrie) all played in the OHL Central division.
The season ended two months ago, it’s now June, and no word if anything will change for the 2016/17 season. Overall it doesn’t really matter, divisions are only a scheduling thing anyway, but it looks weird, and bugs me.
Below I have some scenarios on how the OHL could avoid having its Eastern Conference divisions not quite lining up.
1) Eliminate Divisions.
This is the easiest fix, just go with two 10 team conferences. The Q has 3 conferences, which are pretty much used for scheduling reasons, as the playoffs seed 1-16 (which the OHL should do as well, but that’s another post). The only thing that changes from here is playoff seeding, and that just means each conference is seeded 1-8 for the playoffs. Schedules can be made the same way they are now taking travel into account.
2) Move Mississauga
Teams will still have to travel through the East division to reach each other, but optics wise it’s easier to digest, though I would miss the Scaredy Fish being division rivals, for what that’s worth.
3) Swap the East from east/west split to north/south
If we move away from the traditional split we can fix this maybe a bit easier:
North aka Cottage Country
Central aka the 401/QEW
In this scenario I’d love to see the IceDogs keep the Generals from winning any division titles. The downside here is you’re breaking up the rivalry of the Petes/Fronts but scheduling can fix that. Another issue is travelling to Sudbury/North Bay from Ottawa in the winter isn’t the best route. Currently the 67’s head south more often, down to the 401, not traversing the trans-canada through the bear infested forests of northern Ontario.
4) Major overhaul
You re-do three of the divisions:
Sault Ste. Marie
This is the most complicated, and kills what could be local rivalries in Hamilton/Niagara/Mississauga by moving Hamilton to the West (though it gives us a Hamilton/Guelph/Kitchener three way). I’d love to put The Soo in the North, but travel kills that idea as the Greyhounds would have to travel around Lake Huron to get to Owen Sound to drive right through the West division.
This would be a lot easier if we were to move the Greyhounds to like, Buffalo, or something, but it’s a great franchise and a great city for the OHL so that won’t happen, as much as I’d love things to be neater. With that said, this is clearly the worst Idea.
What should they do?
The best idea in this bunch is to drop the divisions, and just go East/West. It fits the current playoff format, and scheduling can be done based on travel distance/costs as usual.
Now about changing the playoffs….