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NHL Realignment: How It Affects Each NHL Team Individually

Jordan MatthewsAnalyst IIISeptember 10, 2016

NHL Realignment: How It Affects Each NHL Team Individually

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    Late Monday night the NHL's Board of Governors passed a vote to officially realign the NHL into a four-conference setup that could take effect as early as next season.

    The setup consists of two eight-team conferences and two seven-team conferences. The top four teams from each conference will make the playoffs, and the first two rounds of the playoffs will consist of play that is exclusive to conference play.

    During the regular season, each team will play a home-and-home series against teams outside of their conference, and the rest of the games will make up a balanced schedule of play in a team's respective conference.

    But perhaps the most important question from fans is "How does this impact us?" With that in mind, let's take at how the realignment affects each individual NHL team.

Anaheim Ducks

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    New Conference Opponents: Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, and Edmonton Oilers.

    Analysis: The Ducks are one of the teams that aren't really affected too greatly by this.

    They'll have to make a little more travel to the East, which is important considering they're a coastal team, but the NHL has promised that they will make concerted efforts in the scheduling to cut down on extra travel.

    In addition the Ducks add three Canadian opponents. That's three strong markets added. There should be a decent amount of Canadians in California to come out and fill whatever vacancy the Ducks fans leave in the building.

Boston Bruins

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    New Conference Opponents: Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers

    Analysis: Boston should be completely content with the fact that their entire division is still intact after the realignment.

    Sure, they'll have to make a bit of a journey to Tampa and Florida, but look at it this way, it's one more away game a year. They'll have to make one more trip, which shouldn't be a big deal.

    They've also got a decent opportunity to spark something with 2011 Eastern Conference Finals foe Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Maybe not what you may consider a traditional rivalry, but with Tyler Seguin on one team, Steven Stamkos on the other, and both teams having a bright future ahead, it could start something.

Buffalo Sabres

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    New Conference Opponents: Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers

    Analysis: Not much of a big deal here for the Sabres. Their division stays together and they'll have to travel out to Florida once more a year.

    They also have two guaranteed games against the Predators. Ryan Miller should be thrilled.

Calgary Flames

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    New Conference Opponents: Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes

    Analysis: Not a whole lot of significance here for the Flames. The first thing they need to do is become competitive again.

    They get to keep their rivalries with Vancouver and Edmonton, which they should be ecstatic about.

    There should also be no complaints from the Flames about travel, because while they add two games against teams like the Ducks and Kings, they drop two against the Predators and Blue Jackets.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    New Conference Opponents: Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, and New Jersey Devils

    Analysis: Carolina is going to find themselves in a very interesting predicament when the realignment kicks in.

    On one end of the spectrum, they just landed themselves multiple different big hockey markets as common opponents.

    On the other side, the Hurricanes have enough trouble making the playoffs and are now finding themselves in a division with at least four teams that are typically considered playoff locks.

    It's going to be tough for the Hurricanes to make the playoffs from here on out, but with the money they should generate as a result of being surrounded by bigger markets, they should be able to make some money to make themselves competitive in their new division.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    New Conference Opponents: Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, and Dallas Stars

    Analysis: Chicago is most thankful that they were able to keep their rivalry with the Red Wings. The two biggest franchises in the West being split up wouldn't have been good if Chicago had been left there by themselves.

    Also, travel should be great for the Hawks now, as they'll only have to make that West trip once.

    And they're definitely open to expanding new rivalries with teams like Minnesota, even if their rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks may be all but dead now.

Colorado Avanlanche

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    New Conference Opponents: San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, and Phoenix Coyotes

    Analysis: Colorado should be relatively indifferent about this. They get to keep all of their opponents except Minnesota, and they add some good new opponents.

    There's a great deal of potential for rivalries against any of the California teams.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    New Conference Opponents: Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and Winnipeg Jets

    Analysis: Columbus is one of the group of teams that should be elated to see this new realignment. This is the best thing that could've happened for them.

    Despite some belief that they should've moved East, an Eastern move would've been a completely different group of teams, which is quite a change for a team that's already struggling.

    With the realignment plan, Columbus gets to keep all their current division rivals and they also get to cut down on the travel that was hurting them.

    On top of all that, they cut down on late starts, which is great for a team struggling to achieve popularity.

Dallas Stars

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    New Conference Opponents: Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, and Nashville Predators

    Analysis: If anybody has a reason to come out of the Board of Governors meeting with huge smiles on their faces, it's the Stars administration.

    They get out of the Pacific division they hated being in, they only travel out of their time zone for two teams, and they get to create many, many new rivalries.

    Not only do they add Chicago and Detroit, who are both good news for any team in the West, but the Stars also get to build their rivalry against the state where their team originally came from... Minnesota.

Detroit Red Wings

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    New Conference Opponents: Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets, and Dallas Stars

    Analysis: Detroit was at the center of the realignment from the beginning. They were promised by Gary Bettman that when a spot opened for the Eastern Conference, they would be the team to go.

    That didn't happen, but that didn't stop the NHL from pleasing Detroit, as well as many other teams. Detroit essentially didn't want the extra Western Conference trip that was really only endured most extensively by themselves and by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    Now, Detroit, one of the biggest hockey markets in the league and arguably the biggest in the United States will get the earlier start times that they lacked for a very long time.

    The only question is, if Detroit is the most successful franchise of the last two decades despite those disadvantages, how much more dominant could they become now that the disadvantages aren't so present?

Edmonton Oilers

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    New Conference Opponents: Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Phoenix Coyotes

    Analysis: Not much of a big deal here for Edmonton. They're a fast rising team in the NHL and should be able to hang with any of their old and new opponents.

    Just as it is will Calgary, travel shouldn't be an issue, because whatever they add on is taken off by what they lose.

    Look out for the Oilers to be in serious playoff talks very soon. They'll be occupying one of the four conference playoff spots very early into the alignment change.

Florida Panthers

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    New Conference Opponents: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators

    Analysis: Over the course of the time that this plan for realignment was revealed, I couldn't help but notice several disgruntled fans from both the Panthers organization and the Lightning organization.

    The only question is, how can you feel the need to complain about being placed in a conference with so many big market teams. Toronto, Montreal, and Boston are three of the top six markets in the NHL according to a list posted earlier this week, which can be seen here.

    That's just not a valid complaint. The Panthers are going to have to make one extra trip a year to the Northeastern region. The money that Toronto, Boston, Buffalo, and Montreal will make them with the amount of retirees they house in Florida will by far make up the difference.

    As was said in an earlier slide about the Hurricanes. The money that their Conference rivals will bring to them will give them the opportunity to become competitive, successful hockey markets.

Los Angeles Kings

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    New Conference Opponents: Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, and Colorado Avalanche

    Analysis: Not that big of a deal for the Kings, but they will have an outstanding opportunity to build some new rivalries.

    They had a great playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks two years ago, and seeing more from the two teams mix it up more should make for some very good hockey.

    Watching them play Edmonton should be great as well, as both teams are young and on the rise.

Minnesota Wild

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    New Conference Opponents: Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators

    Analysis: It would appear that if you're in this specific conference you should be a happy organization. Minnesota moves into a conference that will be more travel and time-zone friendly for them.

    In addition, by adding teams like Detroit, Chicago, and Dallas, the possibilities for rivalries are endless.

    And with Detroit being rumored to host a Winter Classic, which you can read more on here, the Wild might be lucky enough to hit the NHL's biggest regular season event.

Montreal Canadiens

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    New Conference Opponents: Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning

    Analysis: If the Canadiens feel wronged by the realignment, hopefully they wont be calling the police about it.

    Not that there's much to complain about anyways. The Canadiens get to stick with their entire old division.

    While adding two Florida teams may not sound appealing, it's only one more trip per year, which shouldn't put much of a crimp in the revenue of a team that made $47.7 million last year.

    If they're that concerned about travel costs, they can pay for it by getting rid of Scott Gomez...

Nashville Predators

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    New Conference Opponents: Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and Winnipeg Jets

    Analysis: The Predators will walk away from the realignment agreement content simply with the fact that they will have to do much less traveling.

    They also get to keep their rivalries with Chicago and Detroit, as well as potentially build more rivalries with the newcomers of the conference.

    Mission number one; however, is figuring out how in the world they're going to get Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to come back to the team.

New Jersey Devils

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    New Conference Opponents: Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals

    Analysis: New Jersey may be upset with the extra Western travel but keeping the old Atlantic division together should be enough to keep them happy.

    Also, adding the Washington Capitals as a conference rival may be a good thing for the Devils, but it will make it harder for the Devils to get into the playoffs.

    Like Nashville though, priority number one is figuring out what to do with upcoming star free agent Zach Parise.

New York Islanders

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    New Conference Opponents: Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals

    Analysis: Once again the Washington Capitals should be a nice boost in the money-making category of things.

    That said, the Islanders may find themselves in the same boat as Carolina. So many good teams in this conference that they're gonna have a hard time keeping up.

    Also, with no secure building lease in place after their current one expires, the pressure is on doubly for the Isles.

New York Rangers

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    New Conference Opponents: Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes

    Analysis: Not a huge deal for the Rangers. They do get another tough team in their division but it should be something they're able to handle.

    And speaking of the Rangers vs. Capitals, that may be alluding towards a future Winter Classic.

    There's not a chance that the NHL wont capitalize on that option at some point and that point may be sooner rather than later.

Ottawa Senators

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    New Conference Opponents: Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers

    Analysis: Not much to say about Ottawa either way. They add two Florida teams to their conference and get to keep all the rivals they had before.

    Establishing consistency in the playoffs is their biggest concern at this point.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    New Conference Opponents: Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes

    Analysis: This could be another future Winter Classic. Flyers vs. Capitals would be a great outdoor game no matter what.

    And hopefully, it will turn into a great rivalry. Both teams are heavily promoted and are very successful, now they have their conference in common.

    Philadelphia might not like extra trips out to the Western region, but it's something they'll get over as time goes on.

Phoenix Coyotes

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    New Conference Opponents: Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Colorado Avalanche

    Analysis: This is a rather interesting situation for the Coyotes. A big part of the reason that the four conference system was adopted was to make it easier for future realignments.

    No doubt anybody making that suggestion was pointing their finger at the Coyotes without making any actual physical gestures.

    And there has been the question of why Columbus or Detroit didn't move to the Toronto Conference multiple times... The answer is because it's an open door for Phoenix to leave.

    Unfortunately for Phoenix fans, unless an owner literally falls from heaven, the Phoenix Coyotes' days are coming to an end.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    New Conference Opponents: Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes

    Analysis: Pittsburgh may have hit the jackpot in terms of teams moving into their conference, at least in the East.

    Games versus Washington are always heavily publicized, and now they will be even more popular.

    The biggest issue Pittsburgh has to worry about is so many other potential contenders in their conference. The former Atlantic is certainly going to be competitive in the coming years.

San Jose Sharks

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    New Conference Opponents: Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Colorado Avalanche

    Analysis: San Jose should be quite content with this, as they keep the vital pieces of their division and add some to it for good measure.

    Adding the Canucks and Oilers to their conference opponents should be great for the sport and could spark some great new rivalries.

    Unfortunately for the Sharks, their rivalry with the Red Wings may come to an abrupt end.

St. Louis Blues

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    New Conference Opponents: Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars, and Winnipeg Jets

    Analysis: It was never really a question that St. Louis would stay in the same place, it was just a matter of who it would be with.

    It turns out, they get all their Central Division rivals back, plus some new ones.

    I'd love to see where a St. Louis versus Minnesota rivalry could go well.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    New Conference Opponents: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, and Buffalo Sabres

    Analysis: Once again, I don't see any argument in why you would want to not be in a division with three of the top six NHL fan bases.

    Playing those teams will be great news for Tampa and it'll bring a lot of money into the franchise.

    Now all they need to do it find a decent goalie to replace Roloson and they should be in decent shape.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    New Conference Opponents: Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning

    Analysis: The Toronto administration should be very happy that the entire division has stayed together.

    They might have a gripe about traveling to Florida and to California more, but in Brian Burke's own words on the video, "Eastern Teams shouldn't be complaining about travel."

Vancouver Canucks

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    New Conference Opponents: Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and Anaheim Ducks.

    Analysis: Vancouver should be very happy with this deal.

    For starters, they get to keep their rivalry against Calgary and Edmonton.

    And to top it off, they get to add games against the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. Those two teams may be ripe territory for a new rivalry to begin.

    Also, Vancouver now has a home and home to play host to Stanley Cup foes the Boston Bruins.

Washington Capitals

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    New Conference Opponents: Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers

    Analysis: Washington may have hit home out of all the Eastern Conference teams involved.

    They will now have to immerse themselves into a very competitive conference, and while they can handle it, it's not going to be a walk in the park like the Southeast division was for several years.

    Regardless, Washington is gonna thrive on their Pittsburgh rivalry, as well as building new rivalries in Philadelphia and New York.

Winnipeg Jets

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    New Conference Opponents: Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, and Columbus Blue Jackets

    Analysis: It's rather ironic that Winnipeg ends this list considering they started the realignment.

    That said, they will be happy, of course, because they're moved in the alignment, and moved into a great place where they can build rivalries with teams like Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota.

Want More Coverage?

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    Jordan Matthews frequently writes for the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings. You can see more of his work below:

    Sabres vs. Predators Brawl is the Way Hockey Should Be

    NHL Realigns to 4 Conferences

    You can also follow Jordan on Twitter by clicking the Follow Button Below.



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