Near the end of the 2011-12 season the NHL and NHLPA began a discussion about possible realignment of the NHL for the 2012-13 season. The NHLPA however shot down the realignment plan wanting a schedule drat for the new set up which the NHL failed to follow through on. With the lockout over and new talks of expansion, the realignment proposal has resurfaced once again. The plan is to go back to the four division alignment that existed from 1974 to 1993, which was made up of the Adams & Patrick Division (which made up the Prince of Wales Conference) and the Norris & Smythe Divison (which made up the Campbell Conference).
The Boston Bruins played in the Adams Divison (which today is the Northeast Divison) along side the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and once upon a time the California Golden Seals – Cleveland Barons – Minnesota North Stars.
The Boston Bruins made their rivalries against the Sabres, Whalers, Nordiques and Seals/Barons/Stars while playing in the Adams Divison. Most of those teams are gone now but a rivalry still stands strong with Carolina (formerly the the Whalers) and the divisional rivalry of the Nordiques vs Bruins ended when the Nords packed up for Denver and won Ray Bourque a cup in 2001.
With the NHL wanting to go back to this four division system, what new rivalries / inter-division play will be opened up for Boston? The NHL wants to add the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers to “Conference C” where the Bruins play. “Conference C” will retain the Northeast Divison for the most part, but with the additions of the Lightning and Panthers the growing rivalry between the Bruins and these two teams down south could intensify more than they already have. The Lightning dealt the Bruins a 7 game series that won’t be forgotten and the Panthers have either been the stairs of the Bruins or a nasty thorn in the side through out the years. Adding these two teams would make for some very interesting hockey since we’d get to play Tampa and Florida far more often, however with Winnipeg leaving the East for the West it unbalances the divisions with 6 a piece in the West and 5 in the east.
Many people are looking at Phoenix and possible expansion into Seattle and Ontario to fill the gaps. With Jamsion not being able to purchase the Coyotes, time is officially running out for the Yotes and Glendale. Speculation (and just general common sense) says that if all else fails the Coyotes will be heading north for Quebec. That will definitely fill the empty spot for Conference C and putting a team in Seattle will fill Phoenix’s old spot and an Ontario team will fill Conference D’s empty slot.
However the NHL plans to do this, one thing is for sure. It’s gonna get a lot more crazy in the Northeast.. Adams.. whatever they are gonna call it. (I’m hoping Adams)