Possible NHL Division Realignment


 

NHL Division Realignment

With the potential sale of the Atlanta Thrashers, and possible relocation of the team to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada,the NHL is looking at the potential need to realign a few teams into new divisions.  While the rumors are out there for a simple realignment plan, with only one team switching conferences besides the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise, my brain got to thinking of how the league should properly segment itself.  Find out how the league wants the league to look, and what restructuring I think would benefit hockey the most, after the jump.

Below are the new possible alignment for the NHL divisions in the future.  These are still speculative at this moment, as the Thrashers sale and relocation isn’t complete yet.  For more information about the potential sale of the Atlanta Thrashers and relocation to Winnipeg, click here.  Besides the potential NHL changes to the division residents, I have added my own realignment option to the table.  Looking at geographical locations, time zones, and multitudes of other factors, I have come up with my own ideas on where teams should be placed.  The NHL division occupants are in black, my teams are colored red.

Likely NHL Alignment

My Alignment

Eastern Conference

Northeast Division

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

This division will stay intact in both the league’s scenario and my vision for realignment.  Due to the close proximity of the cities to one another, and the long tradition of having three Original Six franchises in one division is too good for the league to tinker with.  Everybody is happy with the current format, and these five teams will continue to grind it out against each other for years to come.

Northeast Division

New York Rangers

New York Islanders

New Jersey Devils

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

New York Rangers

New York Islanders

New Jersey Devils

Philadelphia Flyers

Washington Capitals

And now we have reached the first conflicting ideas of realignment in the Atlantic Division.  While the league would see fit to keep the current grouping intact, I think it is in the league’s best interest to shake it up, and transfer Pittsburgh to the West as well, creating a second available spot in the Eastern Conference.  Sliding Washington into the Atlantic Division is a geographical no brainer, and also puts the league’s flashiest superstar, Alex Ovechkin, in New York City for about a third of his road games.  Pittsburgh would be switched into a new Central Division, more on that later. 

The tight radius of teams in this division could even help the league promote it’s ever growing green awareness.

Southeast Division

Florida Panthers

Tampa Bay Lightning

Carolina Hurricanes

Washington Capitals

Nashville Predators

Florida Panthers

Tampa Bay Lightning

Carolina Hurricanes

Nashville Predators

Dallas Stars

The logical restructuring of the NHL would just substitute one team swapping conferences for another, minimizing the damage.  The most logical selection would be for Nashville to leave the Western Conference and take Atlanta’s place in the Southeast Division.  There have been rumors that Detroit would like to move to the Eastern Conference, but they draw too well out west to have them switch conferences.

The logical geographical equation of Nashville in the Southeast is enough for the league.  I say create a true Southern Division.  The Florida teams, Carolina, Nashville, and Dallas would create a Nascar belt of hockey, creating interest and more intense regional rivalries.  Dallas has more association to the East Coast than the two hour time difference of the Pacific Division.  Nashville saves on travel costs, and gets the benefit of earlier road television times.

The league could even hold a game, perhaps even a Winter Classic, at Cowboys Stadium.  While this could currently be done anyway if the league and Jerry Jones wanted, the idea that the Stars could play conference games against Philadelphia or Washington Or New York strums up not only more interest for hockey, but also digs into the deep football fan bases.  There is built in hatred between cities, a little realignment could stoke those fires even more.

 

gary bettman the sports bank hockey

Western Conference

Central Division

Detroit Red Wings

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

St. Louis Blues

Minnesota Wild

Detroit Red Wings

Chicago Blackhawks

Columbus Blue Jackets

St. Louis Blues

Pittsburgh Penguins

The team who most benefits from a simple change in places would be the Minnesota Wild, they would go into a logical division, the Central, with tradition rich franchises like the Red Wings and Blackhawks.  The Central instantly becomes a Big 10 like division, which is a blessing for the soon to be formed Big 10 college hockey conference, not to mention regional matchups for the NHL.

In my scenario, the hockey mad State of Hockey won’t get to go into the Central.  Instead, it would remain in the Northwest, where it would wrestle for the true soul of hockey with the Canadian franchises.  My realignment would instead bring the immortal, if still concussed, Sidney Crosby to the Western Conference.  While Pittsburgh may be a difficult sell to the Western Conference, it is geographically a very reasonable idea from a division standpoint.  Detroit and Columbus are a short interstate drive from Pittsburgh.  It puts Crosby in Chicago more often, creates new rivalries for the league, not the mention the extra amount of games between NBC favorites that would be created.  Dick Ebersol, Edzo, and the gang between the glass at NBC/Comcast/SoonNoLongerToBeVersus dreamy at least once or twice a week.   It also lets Crosby do like Gretzky did back in the day.  Crosby can get away from the grinding East Coast style play and into the free flowing West.  He can come in multiple games a year to struggling homes like Phoenix and Winnipeg and Columbus.  The expenses may be higher for the franchise, but the business money far outweighs the airplane fuel and flight times.

Northwest Division

Edmonton Oilers

Calgary Flames

Colorado Avalanche

Vancouver Canucks

Atlanta Thrashers/Manitoba Moose

Edmonton Oilers

Calgary Flames

Colorado Avalanche

Minnesota Wild

Atlanta Thrashers/Manitoba Moose

The NHL would like to keep all four Canadian franchises in one division, not only for the sake of in country competitiveness, but also to cut down on the number of trips through immigration that splitting them apart would cause.  The NHL just supplants the Winnipeg franchise for the Wild, who have shifted to the Central.  In my scenario, the Wild are still in the Northwest Division, along with Winnipeg.  While it is difficult for me to take the Wild away from such a hockey rich division as the Central, the new Northwest becomes a quick passage for the Wild.  And the retooling Avalanche, and Oilers, and even the young Thrashers/soon to be Moose.  It is a competitive, centralized division and will serve as a gentle resting spot for the relocated franchise.

Pacific Division

Phoenix Coyotes

Anaheim Ducks

Los Angeles Kings

San Jose Sharks

Dallas Stars

Phoenix Coyotes

Anaheim Ducks

Los Angeles Kings

San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks

With the NHL’s quick realignment, there would be no change in the Pacific Division.  In my scenario, Dallas has gone into the Southeast Division, and I have slotted Vancouver into the Pacific Division.  This put the Canucks geographically closer to the majority of its division opponents, and links the major West Coast media markets, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancover into one time friendly conference.  Like the Pac 10 (now 12) or a Boise State game, entertaining sports late into the night for the Midwest and East coast is always fun, damned what the old people going to bed think.

While it is highly unlikely that the league would ever think closely about this type of radical realignment, especially if it were to occur on such short notice.  However, this is a league that has been at the forefront of innovation in recent years, and have shown a willingness to adapt and change to cater to the wants of the public.  No matter what, a sale of the Thrashers almost certainly means some type of division realignment, it’s just a matter of how much the NHL wants to shuffle the deck.

bryan vickroy the sports bank hockey

Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms.  He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long.  Look for new articles throughout the week.  He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy.  If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at bryan.vickroy@gmail.com .

Comments

  1. Go Ducks says:

    My alignment…

    Pacific

    Anaheim
    LA
    SJ
    PHX
    Colorado

    NorthWest

    Vancouver
    Edmonton
    Calgary
    Minnesota
    Manitoba/Winipeg

    Central

    Chicago
    Columbus
    Detroit
    St. Louis
    Dallas

    Southeast

    Florida
    Tampa
    Carolina
    Washington
    Nashville

    Atlantic

    NY Rangers
    NY Islanders
    NJ
    Philly
    Boston

    Northeast

    Pittsburgh
    Montreal
    Toronto
    Ottawa
    Buffalo

  2. Duckman says:

    My new alignment…

    PACIFIC

    Anaheim
    LA
    SJ
    PHX
    Colorado

    NORTHWEST

    Vancouver
    Calgary
    Edmonton
    Minnesota
    Winnepeg/Manitoba… was Atlanta

    CENTRAL

    Detroit
    Chicago
    Columbus
    St. Louis
    Dallas

    SOUTHEAST

    Florida
    Tampa
    Carolina
    Washington
    Nashville

    ATLANTIC

    NY Rangers
    NY Islanders
    NJ
    Philly
    Boston

    NORTHEAST

    Montreal
    Toronto
    Ottawa
    Buffalo
    Pittsburgh

  3. Sylvain says:

    Northwest: VAN, EDM, CGY, WPG, MIN

    Pacific: SJS. LAK, ANA, PHX, COL

    Central: CHI, DET, CBJ,

  4. Sylvain says:

    Northwest: VAN, EDM, CGY, WPG, MIN

    Pacific: SJS. LAK, ANA, PHX, COL

    Central: CHI, CBJ, DAL, DET, STL

    Southeast: CAR, FLO. NAS, TBL, WAS

    Atlantic: NJD, NYI, NYR, PHI, PIT

    Northeast: BOS, BUF, MTL, OTT, TOR

  5. Original 6 says:

    Two Divisions in each conference. Top two teams in each division and next four teams by winning percentage make playoffs with this lineup.
    Eastern Conference
    North Division
    Boston
    Montreal
    Buffalo
    Toronto
    Ottawa
    Detroit
    New York Rangers
    South Division
    Pittsburgh
    Philadelphia
    New Jersey
    New York Islanders
    Washington
    Carolina
    Tampa
    Florida
    Western Conference
    Central Division
    Chicago
    St. Louis
    Nashville
    Columbus
    Minnesota
    Dallas
    Winnipeg
    Pacific Division
    Colorado
    Edmonton
    Calgary
    Vancouver
    San Jose
    Los Angeles
    Anaheim
    Phoenix

  6. personally, I like the idea of 4 divisions, north, east, south, west. Kind of like the NFL. I like the idea that of the 16 playoff wins it currently takes to win the cup, the first 8 would be within their division.
    Helps to keep the long, coast to coast trips to a minimum each season, too.
    Now what needs to be addressed is ‘back to back’ game days. No team is at its best in these games and injuries occur more often when players are tired or over extending themselves. go Wings . . .

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