Posted on: May 17, 2011 3:57 pm

The need for NHL Realignment

With the NHL now actively considering relocation of the Coyotes, Thrashers and Blue Jackets in recent years, one of the hot topics has become how the conferences and divisions will be designed if teams do indeed move.  The current structure dates back to 1993, and was designed to make more sense geographically.  The number of teams per division (5) has had mixed results, and the number of games a team plays against a divisional opponent was rolled back in 2008 to be only 6.

The implications of teams moving might not be so clear.  The desire for parity of schedule and the number of divisional games played will likely be high.  But even one single team moving will cause quite a disturbance, unless the NHL is willing to go back to somewhat unbalanced divisions. 

For example. if the Coyotes move to Kansas City in 2012 and the Thrashers move to Winnipeg in 2011, the result might be such that:

1) The KC Coyotes enter the Central Division, Western Conference.
2) The WPG Thrashers enter the Northwest Division, Western Conference.
3) The Vancouver Canucks would enter the Pacific Division, filling the Coyotes' void.
4) The NSH Predators would enter the Southeast Division, filling the Thrashers' void.
5) All 6 divisions would have the same number of teams- 5.

The geographic integrity of the league is mostly preserved doing something like this, but is it fair ?  Why should any team, especially one like Vancouver with its existing Canadian rivalries with Edmonton and Calgary, be made to switch divisions to accomodate the relocations, all in the name of parity.  What does everyone think of this strategy ?

Wouldn't it be simpler to admit that the 6-division structure is a bust, and return to the pre-1993 structure of four divisions, roughly separated into N.American continental quadrants ?  We could even return to the old names- Patrick, Smythe, Adams and Norris, but don't have to.  The only real issue, would be that with 30 teams, two divisions would have only 7 teams while the other two would have 8.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it leaves the door open to possible expansion.  Here's my proposal for a 4 Division realignment:

Eastern Conference 

Northeast Divsion (Adams)
-Boston Bruins
-Montreal Canadiens
-New York Islanders
-New York Rangers
-Toronto Maple Leafs
-Buffalo Sabres
-Ottawa Senators
-empty (possibly another team in S. Ontario or Quebec in future)

Atlantic Division (Patrick)
-Washington Capitals
-New Jersey Devils
-Philadelphia Flyers
-Carolina Hurricanes
-Tampa Bay Lightning
-Florida Panthers
-Pittsburgh Penguins
-Nashville Predators

Western Conference 

Central Divsion (Norris)
-Chicago Blackhawks
-Columbus Blue Jackets
-St. Louis Blues
-Kansas City Coyotes (relocated Coyotes)
-Winnipeg Jets (relocated Thrashers)
-Detroit Red Wings
-Minnesota Wild
-Dallas Stars

Pacific Divsion (Smythe)
-Colorado Avalanche
-Vancouver Canucks
-Anaheim Ducks
-Calgary Flames
-Edmonton Oilers
-San Jose Sharks
-Los Angeles Kings
-empty (possible future team in Houston, San Antonio or Sacramento?)
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