With the extinction of the Atlanta Thrashers and the re-birth of the Winnipeg Jets, the 2011-12 NHL landscape right now is a whole lot more different than it was exactly a year ago.
With some new rules being put in place regarding the head-shots, checks from behind and goal line controversy on goals, the NHL and Gary Bettman forgot to do one thing to accommodate the Winnipeg Jets.
What was that one thing they decided to put on the back-burner? Realigning the divisions.
As it stands right now, the Winnipeg Jets sit in the Southeast Division along with the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers.
With this in mind, the Jets will likely have the most air miles among any NHL team this season, and as a result, I don't expect good things for the club, at least this year.
They've got some great pieces like Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Ondrej Pavlevec and many others, but the fact remains that they will be one tired team this year.
How should the NHL try and realign the divisions? Is it a simple one-for-one team swap? Could it be a domino-like swap where one team moves, then another, followed by yet another team? Or should the NHL just abolish the six divisions and go back to four.
In the remaining portion of the article, I'll go through how the NHL should do each re-alignment, and give you an opinion on what I think would be the best for the NHL going forward.
This one has been discussed before, but it's to move the Detroit Red Wings to the Eastern Conference and move the Winnipeg Jets to the West. Another option could be the Columbus Blue Jackets.
However, the move that makes the most sense here—at least for a one-for-one team swap—could be the Nashville Predators moving to the Eastern Conference due to their proximity to the Southern states. This would result in fewer miles traveled by both clubs over the course of the season.
The NHL realignment would not change much and be shifted to:
Northeast: Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto
Atlantic: New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
Southeast: Carolina, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Washington
Central: Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Northwest: Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota, Vancouver
Pacific: Anaheim, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose
The Domino Realignment
This one is a realignment that almost serves as a domino effect. When I move one team here, it creates a set of team division moves that will change the landscape of the divisions for the time being.
Here, I will be moving the Detroit Red Wings from the Central to the Northeast. In an additional move, the Minnesota Wild will be moving from the Northwest to the Central.
Due to being on the west coast, I plan on moving the Canucks to the Pacific Division (sorry, fans of an all-Canadian division). As a result, the Dallas Stars would move from the Pacific to a more travel-friendly Central Division.
To cover up the remaining moves so we get an equal number of distributed teams in divisions, I'll be moving the Boston Bruins from the Northeast to the Atlantic, the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Southeast and lastly, the Winnipeg Jets will move to the Northwest.
Confused by this?
Here's what the new divisions would look like according to what I just stated above:
Northeast: Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto
Atlantic: Boston, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia,
Southeast: Carolina, Florida, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington
Central: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis,
Northwest: Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota, Winnipeg
Pacific: Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
The Complete Overhaul
This is the doomsday of scenarios for the current NHL setup. What I'm proposing here is only four divisions, not six. Two divisions will have eight teams, two divisions will have seven teams.
I'm proposing bringing back the Prince of Wales and Clarance Campbell Conferences. With each comes the Adams and Patrick divisions (Wales) and the Norris and Smythe (Campbell) divisions.
I like the NHL to have a little history with the divisions, so why not go back to the time when hockey was at its best?
Prince of Wales Conference
Buffalo, Boston, Carolina, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto,
Florida. New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington
Clarence Campbell Conference
Calgary, Chicago, Columbus, Edmonton, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Anaheim, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Now my last idea may be a stretch, but personally, it could create the best regular season money could buy. The Eastern Conference, or should I say, Prince of Wales Conference, would have a bevvy of solid matchups night in and night out.
Four of the Original Six reside in the Prince of Wales Conference, offering up historic matchups. In the Patrick Division, the battle of New York and Pennsylvania continues, as does the Ovechkin versus Crosby matchup.
In the Campbell Conference, this is more of a crap-shoot, but still offers great matchups. Minnesota versus Winnipeg, Calgary versus Edmonton, Anaheim versus Los Angeles and many more are there for the fans to enjoy.
The most critical part of this setup is travel. Every team will have a reduced travel schedule, or at least reduced air miles on their season.
However, in the end, I predict the NHL will go the simple route and do the one-for-one swap and leave it at that. The most likely team to move conferences will likely be the Nashville Predators; however, there is an outside chance the Detroit Red Wings or Columbus Blue Jackets make that move to the East.
Feel free to share your thoughts below.
Thanks for reading.