With the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg to become the Jets this coming season and the Phoenix Coyotes likely to move to Quebec a year from now, a drastic realignment of the NHL's divisions and conferences is just around the corner.
Many ideas have been thrown around, some simple, some complicated. But the one thing they have in common is that they all change the landscape of the NHL completely. With one team moving west and one team probably moving east, a radical change seems inevitable.
Here's my idea for realignment:
The relocation of several NHL teams will be good for the league, as the old system of six divisions is getting stale. What might freshen things up a bit is to reduce the size of each division but hold them within the conferences. This would increase rivalries but keep the idea of Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference. Let's start by looking at what the two will look like.
With the rejection of the arena referendum, the New York Islanders organization might be doomed, but for the purpose of this article, we'll keep them intact. We will, however, move the Phoenix Coyotes to Quebec.
How should the NHL Realign?
Columbus Blue Jackets
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
St Louis Blues
Toronto Maple Leafs*
Detroit Red Wings*
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils
Tampa Bay Lightning
* The Detroit Red Wings have wanted to move east for a long time now. Geographically similar, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a downward spiral and would welcome a change.
Now, to the divisions: 30 teams in a league, 15 teams per conference, 3 teams per division.
This would make 5 divisions in each conference. Each of the top teams, ranked by points totals, in each conference make the playoffs. Those top 10 teams automatically take the bottom 10 spots in the draft.
The bottom team in each division misses the playoffs, and those 10 teams automatically take the top 10 spots at the draft. The remaining 10 teams are then ranked in points, and the top three from each conference make the playoffs. Simple.
Northwest Division: Calgary Flames - Edmonton Oilers - Vancouver Canucks
Northern Division: Minnesota Wild - Toronto Maple Leafs - Winnipeg Jets
Central Division: Chicago Blackhawks - Columbus Blue Jackets - Nashville Predators
Midwest Division: Colorado Avalanche - Dallas Stars - St Louis Blues
California Division: Anaheim Ducks - Los Angeles Kings - San Jose Sharks
Northeast Division: Montreal Canadiens - Ottawa Senators - Quebec (X)
Lake Erie Division: Buffalo Sabres - Detroit Red Wings - Pittsburgh Penguins
New York Division: New Jersey Devils - New York Islanders - New York Rangers
Eastern Division: Boston Bruins - Philadelphia Flyers - Washington Capitals
Southeast Division: Carolina Hurricanes - Florida Panthers - Tampa Bay Lightning
You would play each of your divisional rivals eight times (16), each of the other conference teams four times (48) and play 18 inter-conference games (18). 82 games total.