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Breaking News: New NHL Realignment Plan Set to Break Up Southeast Division

Jordan MatthewsAnalyst IIIDecember 4, 2011

Breaking News: New NHL Realignment Plan Set to Break Up Southeast Division

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    The controversial NHL realignment has been a topic that has arguably been the biggest story in the league during the 2011-2012 NHL season.

    At the center of that discussion has been the Detroit Red Wings, who were reportedly promised by league commissioner Gary Bettman that when a spot opened in the Eastern Conference, they would be the team to move.

    However, they also said that if a radical change were made to the way the setup worked, they'd be willing to stay in their current division.

    It looks like that may be the way it is. On Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night, a new realignment plan was reported and is said to be one of two plans to be discussed at the NHL Board of Governors meeting later this week.

    The other setup would only feature a one-for-one swap with the Winnipeg Jets and a Western Conference team.

    Bettman hopes to have the conferences decided this week at the meeting, but it may not be set in stone when those meetings are finished.

    With that, let's look at the new conference setup proposal.

Pacific Conference

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    Teams Featured: Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes

    Analysis: It may not take long for this conference to change, as the Phoenix Coyotes look to be on their way out of the NHL. That said, this is the current plan, and it suits everybody's needs, as the Pacific and Northeast Divisions would stay nearly intact.

    Unfortunately, they're in one of the conferences that has eight teams, making it a bit more difficult to make the playoffs, but as I noted earlier, the Phoenix Coyotes could make that change.

Central Conference

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    Teams Featured: Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues

    Analysis: Yes, if this realignment plan gets voted in, the Red Wings will return to what have been their regular opponents for the last 10 years.

    You might think that the teams who got cut out of the Pacific and Northeast Divisions would be upset about this plan, but it's unlikely. Dallas has wanted to move to the Central for years, and Minnesota would pick up multiple new, and arguably better rivalries.

    First and foremost, they'd get to rival the Stars, who took their previous NHL team. They'd also add a rivalry with Detroit, which could easily be the State of Hockey vs. Hockeytown. They'd pick up Chicago, where there would be no complaints, and they would also add Winnipeg.

    Speaking of Winnipeg, they get their wish of getting in the Western Conference. Sure, they could complain that they want to be in a conference with the other Canadian teams, but I think they'll be content with the fact that they have a team again and will likely be grateful that they don't have to travel so much.

Atlantic Conference

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    Teams Featured: New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes

    Analysis: Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the same division. This is arguably what made the last alignment impossible, as both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were unhappy about being split up.

    But that should not worry them any more, as the entire Atlantic division would stay intact.

    You also can't have many complaints from Carolina, who would just be grateful to have more big sellers in their division. That should bring their attendance up quite a bit.

    As for Washington, I don't think they'll complain about going from Tampa and Florida as division rivals to Pittsburgh, New York and Philadelphia.

Eastern Conference

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    Teams Featured: Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers.

    Analysis: You might find a few complainers in this conference, but it should be pointed out to those complainers that they get to keep the entire Northeast Division intact.

    In the mean time, despite having to travel more, Florida and Tampa have hit the gold mine by adding three Original Six teams to their division. Any time you add three of the top six markets to your conference, you should consider yourself lucky.



Analysis

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    In all honesty, this is the best realignment plan I've seen yet. It pleases pretty much everybody, adds more rivalries and cuts down on travel and time zone changes.

    It should be noted that those aren't the official names of the conferences, merely ones that I made up because quite frankly, they sounded better than "Conference One" and "Conference Two."

    The current plan would be for every team to play five games against their conference teams, followed by a home-and-home, plus extra games against teams outside of the conference.

    The top four teams of each conference would make the playoffs, and the first two rounds would be played against your own conference teams.

     

    Jordan Matthews writes for the NHL and for the Detroit Red Wings, for more coverage, you can follow him on Twitter.


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