As we have all heard the NHL is working on a realignment plan for the 2012-2013 season. You mean the NHL doesn’t want to keep the Winnipeg Jets in the Southeast division?!? Who knew..
So after the upcoming season there will be a hole to fill in Eastern Conference and an extra team in the West that will have to jump over to the East. There are a number of teams petitioning the NHL as to why they should be selected to move into the East Conference. The 3 popular choices, thus far, are the Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Geographically speaking all 3 of these teams should be in the East. However, there is only room for one at the table. But, if all 3 join the East that would severely short-change the West, 17 teams in the East and only 13 in the West might not be the best move.
One of the 13 remaining teams is the NHL owned Phoenix (Glendale) Coyotes. The fate of the struggling franchise is far from certain. Coyotes-Champion Elect Mayor Scruggs of Glendale is no longer certain that the team will remain in Arizona after next season. Where the Coyotes land if they leave Glendale is unknown, they could stay in the west or they could move to the East. If they stay in the West the same problem with re-alignment is still there. If the Coyotes move to the East, Columbus, Detroit, and Nashville can stop asking the NHL to pick them to move into the Eastern Conference.
Status Quo in the Desert
For the purpose of discussing the future makeup of the league let us presume that the Coyotes stay put for the time being under stable-local-ownership. An existing team still needs to move from the West to make room for the Winnipeg Jets. Who should go? Who stays? Well, Nashville is the farthest west out of the 3 so they stay put. That leaves us Detroit and Columbus. If I were the one picking who gets to join the Eastern Conference I would choose the Columbus Blue Jackets. A Columbus team in the East helps their fans more than anything. With the bulk of their games being held outside the Eastern Conference in the past the Jackets have been bleeding money. If their fans could follow the team in the Eastern Conference they would probably watch a lot more of the games on TV and start then to follow the team from the seats in Columbus. Detroit on the other hand has a healthy following and can probably tough it out a while longer in the Western Conference.
Breaking it Down
Northeast Division: Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston; No changes, not much you can do here.
Atlantic Division: Pittsburgh, Columbus, Rangers, New Jersey, Islanders; Adding Columbus here would give them an instant geographical rival with Pittsburgh which is only a little over 3 hours away.
Southeast Division: Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Florida; Philly and Washington can get their hate on now they are in the same division, Philadelphia is the closes and best choice to join the Southeast.
Central Division: Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville; Spread out? Absolutely, but then again so is the rest of the Western Conference.. Dallas and St. Louis can see if they can not get along enough to develop a rivalry.
Pacific Division: Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix; Welcome to the toughest, meanest division in all of hockey. This division will become so good that even the folks on the farthest reaches of the east coast will stay up until 2 am to watch these guys play.
Northwest Division: Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado, Minnesota, Winnipeg; All these teams either do or have hated each other and that hate will continue to grow to the point that we can nickname the division “The Rivalry Division”
No such thing, but I like my solution compared to some of the crazy ideas out there. The Canadian Division? Good god, please don’t do it! Check out the Score’s blog on this one. In the end I just hope that the NHL does right by the fans and allows for rivalries and good matchups prevail.