After hearing rumors of NHL realignment for a couple years now, the NHL has finally decided to pull the trigger and change the very landscape of the entire league.
But I don’t know if anybody expected this.
The NHL has decided to take all the league’s teams and insert them into four separate divisions, a move made to salvage the best rivalries and start new ones.
One division includes the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Another division includes the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
Those two divisions make up the teams in what is now knows as the Eastern Conference, while the Western Conference teams have been split into their own two divisions.
One of the divisions is as follows: the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.
The other division contains the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.
OK, so since that is all settled, I will analyze some interesting storylines involved with the entire concept of realigning the league.
For one, rivalries have been kept in check for the most part.
The Red Wings still play the Blackhawks, the Canadiens still play the Flyers and the Penguins still play the Capitals. It’s not a surprise Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are in the same division; actually, I’m sure a bulk of different plans always had the two players’ teams facing off against one another as much as possible. It’s good for the league and provides exposure to the casual fan.
As a lifelong Red Wings fan, I can say that the reaction is probably 50-50 at this point.
Many fans just wanted the simple solution of moving Detroit to the east in exchange for a team like Winnipeg to move west, as the Red Wings are technically in the east already in a geographical sense. But the NHL savors the Red Wings-Blackhawks rivalry and made it clear as such in their new divisions, and that’s still fun to watch.
Speaking of the Red Wings and Blackhawks, both teams will play in one of two divisions that have eight teams — and both divisions all contain teams from the present Western Conference. The other two divisions have seven teams, so a playoff spot will be even harder to come by if you play in the west. Just an early observation.
The other note worth making is how this all translates to postseason play. As of now, 16 teams are still expected to be involved in the playoffs, including four from each new division. Somehow the discrepancy between seven and eight teams in the east and west will work itself out because, well, it has to work out. Teams voted for the change so they must have a solution in mind.
It looks like teams will play others in their own divisions in the first two rounds, but the rest is still up in the air. The new divisions are like their own conferences, so forget the whole “East vs. West” mantra moving into the future.
The NHL is making headlines with this gutsy realignment plan, trying to stir up some gossip and keep the diehard fans happy all the same time. Next year will be a fun time to be an NHL fan.
Yahoo! Sports NHL