We knew it was coming the second the sale/move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg was approved by the NHL Board of Governors. There were whispers of it beforehand, but having the newly-named Jets play their first season in the Southeast Division cemented it. It would have to be done. I’m referring to the R word: Realignment.
It has to be done, but with Gary Bettman at the helm, most of the league is a little on edge as to what he will do. There’s a level of comfort that is built up by fans. We’re emotionally attached to our team’s division and the rivalries within it. We don’t want the change. But, with realignment looming, the only solace we can take is the assurance that if they move, we will find four new teams to brutally hate once the puck drops.
I know there has been a lot of talk as to how it should be done: Less games within the division, moving back to four divisions, etc. I wish I could unveil some elaborate plan that would have readers calling me brilliant or stupid, but I went the common sense route. My changes are small but are geographically logical, which should be the primary goal of realignment. My new NHL would look like this (changes in italics):
Southeast: Carolina, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Washington
Atlantic: New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
Northeast: Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto
Central: Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Minnesota, St Louis
Northwest: Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg
Pacific: Anaheim, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose
Nothing mind-blowing or radical there I know, but I think it makes sense. Nashville to the Southeast is an absolute no-brainer. I bet the teams in the current Central would not be sad to see the Preds take their tough brand of hockey elsewhere. No sense with messing with the other divisions in the East as they’re just about perfect. I know the Detroit Red Wings are hoping that to shift to the East for exposure purposes, but sorry Motown, you guys can’t always get what you want. Besides, isn’t being on VS and NBC all the time good enough for your exposure?
Moving Minnesota to the Central opens up the Jets moving into the Northeast, making it a division of four Canadian teams. I would bet that TSN and CBC would be quite giddy at the prospect of more Canadian teams playing each other each week for their TV coverage. And moving the Wild to the Central goes a long ways to giving it that Norris Division feel.
So there’s my new NHL. Six divisions that maintain traditions and rivalries while making geographic sense. And, just think, if the Phoenix situation doesn’t resolve itself, we’ll be doing this again next year!
How would you realign? What changes would you make?
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