NHL Realignment: 5 Scenarios for the League's 2012-2013 Season

Melissa Bauer-Herzog@mbauerherzogCorrespondent IJune 29, 2011

NHL Realignment: 5 Scenarios for the League's 2012-2013 Season

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    While the release of the 2011-12 season schedule made it clear a realignment will not be seen for next season, it has been guaranteed that the Winnipeg Jets will make a move to the West before the 2012-2013 season.

    But what are five scenarios that may happen with the realignment?

    Let's take a look.

No. 5: The Whole League Gets Shaken Up

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    This one is pretty unlikely, but if the league really wants a shake up, it could happen.

    The Washington Capitals move from the Southeast to the Atlantic Division, kicking the New York Islanders to the Northeast and sending the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Central Division. Both the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars would make a move to the Southeast Division, and the Colorado Avalanche would take the Stars' spot in the Pacific Division, with the San Jose Sharks taking Colorado's spot in the Northwest Division.

    Like I said, this is an unlikely scenario (especially with the Maple Leafs moving to the Central Division), but it would be a big shake up for the schedule.

No. 4: The California Teams Are Split Up

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    While the NHL will probably try to make the realignment simple with just a few moves, this could be an interesting scenario.

    The Nashville Predators could get moved to the Southeast Division with the Wild taking their place and the Jets taking over the Northwest's open spot.

    But another move that could happen in this scenario would be to move the Colorado Avalanche into the Pacific Division and have the San Jose Sharks take over the Avalanche's open Northwest Division spot.

    In that case, the new Western Conference divisions would look like this:

    Central: Blackhawks-Blue Jackets-Red Wings-Wild-Blues

    Northwest: Canucks-Flames-Oilers-Sharks-Jets

    Pacific: Coyotes-Ducks-Kings-Stars-Avalanche

No. 3: Divisions Don't Really Matter

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    With minor changes like a swap between the Predators and the Jets, the league almost totally gets rid of divisions other than in just name.

    Commissioner Gary Bettman talked about the realignment in his press conference on June 1 and made a comment that may make this scenario likely.

    "I think we'll wind up moving towards a slightly more balanced schedule to accommodate the variety of issues I've heard so far from the clubs," Bettman told NHL.com.

    This scenario would still have the division titles, but teams would also play more outside of their divisions throughout the year.

No. 2: Shake Up in the Central Division

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    If an empty spot appears in the Central Division due to one of the teams moving east, the NHL could move the Minnesota Wild into the open spot.

    This would put the Winnipeg Jets in the Northwest Division, which is still a bit of a travel for the team but would put them closer to most of the Northwest Division teams than the Wild are.

No. 1: One Team Gets to Move to the Eastern Conference

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    A few teams have wanted to switch conferences for a while now, and the realignment gives them all a chance to do that.

    The Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, and Columbus Blue Jackets will probably be the ones to watch when the league opens itself up for teams to debate why they need to be moved over to the Eastern Conference.

    Nashville would probably be the best choice to fill the Southeast spot from the Western Conference and would probably cause the least disruption to the divisions, with the Predators and Jets just swapping places.