New York Islanders Place in a Relegation/Promotion System

Babs may be regretting his move now that he's coaching in the AHL. But maybe $8 million/year makes everything better? Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Babs may be regretting his move now that he's coaching in the AHL. But maybe $8 million/year makes everything better? Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s Friday, let’s have some fun. The MLS it is said can’t be a real soccer league without a promotion/relegation system, system that mimics the big European soccer leagues. What if that system applied to the NHL? Where would the New York Islanders fit in that system?

A recent Bleacher Report article detailed how the MLS needs, and could, adopt a promotion and relegation system to join the big soccer leagues around the world.

So let’s take that system and apply it to hockey. How would that shake up the NHL landscape? What teams get relegated and which get promoted?

I want to preface by stating that in no-way-shape-or-form do I believe the NHL needs to adopt such a system. But the thought experiment in certainly quite entertaining.

Think of it. A team plays so poorly in the regular season it gets relegated to a secondary league. Instead of being awarded an elite level prospect (or four if you’re from Edmonton), you get sent down to the lower league. Think tanking happens now?

How it Would Actually Work

The key to a promotion and relegation system is to have more than a single league. We could divide the NHL into two separate leagues but then that throws the entire 82 game schedule out the door.

Rather let’s amalgamate the NHL, AHL, and ECHL into one big North American hockey league. It creates a three-tier system where the final prize is the Stanley Cup.

Promotion from the third tier and second tier would operate along the same lines. The top two teams in each the second and third tier would gain automatic promotion. The third and fourth placed teams would have a single game for the third and final promotion.

Relegation would work in the same fashion, just in the reverse order. The bottom two teams in the first and second tier would be automatically relegated. The third and fourth bottom teams would have a single game for the right to remain in the league. The loser would be relegated.

How the 2015-16 Ends?

The New York Islanders in this past season would be safe. Finishing the year at 10th in the league, they find themselves well outside the drop zone. Toronto ad Edmonton would earn themselves a one-way ticket to the second tier, after finishing the season at the bottom of the league.

Though if the threat of relegation was real the outcome may have been different from Toronto’s perspective. Would they have really gone and liquidated their roster so quickly and completely as they did?

The Vancouver Canucks would find themselves in a single elimination game against the Columbus Blue Jackets for the right to stay in the first tier. Who comes out of it as the victor is certainly must see TV. The Canucks won both regular season meetings between the two, could they make it a third?

Either way, one the two would be relegated to make way for three second-tier clubs.

Last year’s AHL standings finished with the Toronto Marlies and Ontario Reign taking the top two spots with 0.750 and 0.684 records respectively. The Albany Devils and Milwaukee Admirals duke it out for the final promotion spot.

The Maple Leafs go down and the Marlis come up. Talk about some tanking justice.

This is all fun and games, but such a system could never really be installed in the current state of the NHL. Firstly there are some significant contract rules that get in the way. There’s revenue sharing that factors into this as well.

Next: Spotlight in Thomas Hickey

Does the NHL really want it’s third most valuable franchise, the Toronto Maple Leafs, to be playing second tier hockey? Absolutely not. But the idea that the Leafs get their just desserts for deliberately fielding an inferior product fills me with warmth. Happy Friday everyone!