With the recent re-instatement of the Winnipeg Jets, the NHL and it’s Board of Governors will face a tough decision at December’s annual winter meetings. As it is not economical to leave the Jets in the SouthEast division any longer than one year, due to the absurd amount of traveling they must endure simply to play their divisional games, the league must create a re-alignment plan. The decision as to how to re-align the league’s divisions in order to accommodate the Jets, as well as a few other disgruntled teams will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the league and it’s future.
Not only must the league adjust their divisions in order to make life easier on the Jets, they must re-align a few other Western Conference franchises who have complained to the league about their schedule. Such franchises like the Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets have notably disputed their position in the West due to the amount of Western road trips they must make each year. For Columbus & Nashville, it is fairly obvious as to why they would request a change, because playing one third of their games in the Pacific time zone –meaning that the puck doesn’t drop until 9-10 PM local time– can be a serious detriment to two teams trying to expand their fan bases. As far as the Red Wings are concerned, they are relying on an under-the-table type promise made by the commissioner to the Ilitch family (Owners of the Red Wings) when the current division format was established in 1998 that they would be returned to the Eastern Conference as soon as it became possible.
The picture above shows the re-alignment plan proposed by Commissioner Bettman that is allegedly “gaining steam amongst the NHL’s Board of Governors”, according to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman. According to this plan, the league is looking to adapt a new 4-division format, with two divisions of 8 and two divisions of 7. Despite the success of the current 6-division format, it appears that the only way to successfully accommodate most of the parties involved it to create a four-division layout.
While I do agree with most of the format displayed by Friedman, there are a few slight changes I would make to his plan. Here is my idea for an NHL re-alignment plan. Keep in mind, there is no plan that can satisfy all parties involved, what is important is being able to accommodate the majority.
Atlantic Division NorthEast Division Central Division Pacific Division
PHILADELPHIA MONTREAL CHICAGO SAN JOSE
NEW JERSEY TORONTO NASHVILLE ANAHEIM
NY RANGERS OTTAWA DALLAS LOS ANGELES
NY ISLANDERS DETROIT ST. LOUIS COLORADO
WASHINGTON BUFFALO MINNESOTA VANCOUVER
PITTSBURGH BOSTON WINNIPEG CALGARY
TAMPA BAY CAROLINA COLUMBUS EDMONTON
The tweaks in my plan, as opposed to the plan displayed on CBC include swapping Pittsburgh with Carolina. While it may not be geographically correct to have the ‘Canes in the “NorthEast (Or whatever they call the new division), it is imperative to have the Penguins in the “Atlantic” Division. This is to preserve the new-found rivalry between Pittsburgh and the Caps, as well as the natural rivalries the Penguins have in Philadelphia and New York.
I chose to put the Wings into the “NorthEast”, to attempt to re-energize their Original Six rivalries with Montreal, Boston and especially Toronto. The new “NorthEast” division also preserves the great feuds between the Bruins & Canadiens, as well as the classic border battles between the Sabres & Maple Leafs.
In the West, I did not edit much, only placing Columbus into the “Central” division, and keeping the “Pacific” division the same as Friedman had it. Under this plan, each team in the “Central” division will play in the Central or Mountain time zone, while seven of the eight “Pacific” division teams (With Colorado as the exception) will play in the Pacific time zone.
As Friedman detailed, under the 4-division format, every team will play a home-and-home set with each team that is NOT in their division, and will play the remainder of their games squaring off with divisional foes. Also, the new playoff format would allow for the first two rounds of the post-season to take place within each division (No. 1 Seed vs. No. 4 , No. 2 Seed vs. No. 3) with the winners advancing to the Conference Finals.
Of course this new format is not perfect, and likely is only a temporary solution. No matter how realistic or unrealistic the idea may sound, rumors have it that the NHL and Commissioner Bettman’s ultimate plan is to expand to become a 32-team league featuring eight divisions of four, much like the NFL.
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Filed Under: Boston Bruins • Carolina Hurricanes • Columbus Blue Jackets • Detroit Red Wings • Eastern Conference • Featured • Nashville Predators • NHL • NHL Teams • Pittsburgh Penguins • Rumors • Western Conference • Winnipeg Jets
About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.