If the Phoenix Coyotes Move to Hamilton, How Will the NHL Realign?

Tom DeMatteoContributor IMay 6, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 11:  Head coach Wayne Gretzky of the Phoenix Coyotes looks on with teammates on the bench during the NHL game against the Anaheim Ducks at Jobing.com Arena on April 11, 2009 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Ducks in 5-4 in an overtime shootout. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

With the Phoenix Coyotes filing for Chapter 11 protection yesterday, Research In Motion CEO Jim Balsillie has announced a plan to purchase the team and move them to Hamilton, Ontario.

There are plenty of hurdles to clear before this can happen, as the NHL was not happy about the turn of events.

The league acted quickly, stripping Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes of authority to run the team, and will represent the team in bankruptcy proceedings.

But Balsillie, after two failed attempts to buy the Penguins and the Predators, seems to have the upper hand on the league this time. A bankruptcy judge will decide the best course of action for the team—and if Balsillie's offer is the best on the table, the team will be on the move to Hamilton.

If this move happens, the NHL will have some decisions to make as it relates to the divisions. A team in southern Ontario cannot play in the Pacific Division. Realignment would be needed.

Here is how I see it playing out.


Eastern Conference

Northeast Division: Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Buffalo

This would group the four Canadian teams in the East with Buffalo, which would create a ton of local interest in Ontario, Quebec, and northern New York. 


Atlantic Division: Boston, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, New Jersey, Philadelphia

This could be also called the Amtrak Division. Boston would miss the rivalry with Montreal, but Boston-New York just seems right.


Southeast Division: No changes.

Western Conference

Central Division: Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus, Pittsburgh

Moving Pittsburgh out of the Eastern Conference (and their developing rivalry with Washington) seems risky, but there are several positives to this.

First, with NBC preferring early afternoon starts, this would provide another Western Conference city that could accommodate 12 or 1 pm starts.

Second, there are built-in geographical rivalries with Columbus and Detroit.

Third, Gary Bettman would love a Pittsburgh-Washington Stanley Cup Final.


The "I'm not sure what to call it" Division: Nashville, Dallas, Minnesota, Calgary, Edmonton

This was the toughest division to group together. Up to this point, it was easy to group the teams geographically. But this keeps the Calgary/Edmonton rivalry together, and putting the Dallas (formally Minnesota) Stars and Minnesota together should be interesting. 


Pacific Division: Vancouver, Colorado, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim

This division is very strong and travel-friendly, too. I would love to keep Vancouver with Calgary and Edmonton, but travel to Dallas and Nashville four times each borders on unfair.