I’ve been looking at the proposed division alignment a lot these last few days. I honestly don’t know why anymore. I strongly suspect that the alignment will never get past the NHLPA, and I’m willing to bet a few of the owners aren’t entirely thrilled by the new alignment for various reasons. So, let’s just say the hockey gods are having a nap and somehow this mess pulls through and becomes part of hockey canon. Is there any other way that they can make this new format work?
I strongly suspect that this shift will cause at least one or two clubs to fold under it, and maybe that’s what the NHL wanted. Perhaps thirty teams was too odd and they were hoping to see two clubs go under. Personally, I think this would kill off the long suffering Phoenix Coyotes and perhaps the Columbus Blue Jackets(or the Florida Panthers). Then again, I could have this all wrong and perhaps this is just a set up to ADD two more teams to the NHL. That is unlikely though, especially if one of the two cities is Quebec City. They would be in the same situation Winnipeg is in now, and it would probably force another re-alignment.
Under the new format, there will be four divisions. Two of them make sense, and two of them don’t. If they are really trying to address the issue of geography, then they’ve fixed some problems(like Winnipeg) and caused others.
Division A – Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes
That’s still a hike for teams in this division. Some of those games will be cross-continental trips that will really sap their players. Especially if we see another abbreviated season coming down the pipe. The only thing that can be said for it is at least they are the western most teams in the league.
Division B – Winnipeg Jets, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars
The same pros and cons apply from the first conference. It’s a long haul for Dallas to play in Winnipeg, but at least they’re all in a western-central slice of the US and Canada.
Division C – Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers
Factor out the odd inclusion of the two Floridian teams, this looks amazing. Conference fights, er games will be tighter than ever. Putting four of the original six in the same sparring ground appeals to old time hockey purists, and for the most part its regional. There are no major hurdles, and it could be some great hockey played here.
Division D- Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, New York Islanders
For the most part this also looks pretty good. I’ve italicized the two Florida teams in Division C, and the two New York teams in Division D. What (in my opinion) make more sense is to move the Florida teams to D, and the New York teams to C. It would essentially create a hockey ‘Mason-Dixon’ line. Both divisions would gain one good team (Rangers/Lightning) and pick up one, *ahem* struggling team. The only real losers with this movement would be the Islanders and the Panthers, who would essentially become the divisions’ respective whipping posts.
If the NHL is really trying to do this from a geographical issue this makes more sense. If they’re doing it from a ‘milk the cash cow’ perspective, look at the revised C and D divisions. Five out of the ‘original six’ would be grouped together. Division C would also have four of the five largest and most profitable clubs in that group, and people (like me) would spend a weeks pay on two good tickets. I’ve got two great loge seats for Bruins-v-Canadiens on the 27th, and I’ve politely refused an offer to buy them for four hundred dollars. (Yea, the economy is tight, and that four hundred would help out… but this is Bruins-Habs we’re talking about here.)
Hopefully, the NHLPA will see what a complete disaster this alignment is. They’ll veto it like they did the last one, and this whole argument would be academic. Then we could go back to watching our teams and trying to guess why the owners will lockout the players next time.