New news on NHL realignment stirs the pot

The tangled web of NHL realignment has more solutions than an algebra test. Considering the whole topic is so complicated there is little use of trying to make heads or tails of a potential end to it all.

However, this tweet from Adam Proteau was brought up Tuesday afternoon on TSN 1050 and it really got the wheels turning in my head (ok there is just one wheel).

Any previous permutation of the potential alignment for the 2012-13 season was tackled by Bob McKenzie. I’m personally a fan of his final scenario (Plan F), in which Winnipeg would start a counter-clockwise rotation of teams in each division. While it involves moving the most teams, it also creates the best regional and time zone matchups.

Let’s put Winnipeg in the Northwest Division, but keep Minnesota, Colorado,
Calgary and Edmonton there, and move Vancouver to the Pacific Division.
Vancouver in the Pacific makes a lot of sense because, well, every team in the
Pacific would actually be on Pacific time. That would allow Dallas to move from
the Pacific to the Central.

McKenzie’s proposal keeps the same divisional alignment while appeasing the largest number of upset franchises. I think Columbus or Nashville are the two teams in most need of a move East. Nashville makes the most sense to play in the Southeast Division due to their proximity to the rest of the division. Columbus needs more games against regional rivals like Pittsburgh and Buffalo in addition to better start times all year. They are in more trouble than Nashville due to what the time change does to TV viewing. Plus, Detroit’s natural rivalries with many Western teams makes it easier for them to stick around for the time being.

A scenario which establishes four divisions (two eight-team and two seven-team) is favorable, as well. However it makes the playoff and regular season scheduling complicated. The NHL’s ultimate goal should be to get Columbus to the East at all costs. If there is room to accommodate Detroit and Nashville, then do so. However, they are better suited to play in the West than Columbus.

Proteau’s Tweet actually provides a conceivable realignment format in addition plus the ability of the league to wash their hands of problem organizations. Florida and Phoenix would be the main targets while Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis, the Islanders and the Devils could be in trouble too.

While contraction is a scary thought that would indicate a systematic failure in the league, it actually could serve as a benefit to the league. Consider the fact that the NHL has been operating the Coyotes for well over a season, plus the financial instability that has plagued the Panthers for nearly a decade.

Both franchises are wallowing. Fans dressed as seats often outnumber those dressed in jerseys. Rather than attempt to support a team that bleeds red ink which no one has interest in buying, why not cut bait?

Not only would this strategy rid the league – and the other 28 owners – of two franchises bringing down the league’s financial viability; it also would flood the league with nearly 50 NHL-ready players, thus raising the skill level of the entire league. For example, Shane Doan, Keith Yandle and Erik Gudbranson would be made available to the rest of the league. Between roster players and prospects, each team would receive two players who could step in and contribute as some level.

By contracting a pair of franchises the conference realignment becomes much easier. Either Columbus or Nashville (my top-two candidates for the East) can move out of the West, it doesn’t matter which at this point. The four-division format becomes a layup with 28 teams. It allows the NHL to maximize time zone-based divisions which will make everyone happy.

While I see the benefits of contraction and realignment, I’d prefer the league find owners for troubled franchises in cities that will truly support the teams. If that means Quebec City, Kansas City, Hartford and Seattle need to be considered, so be it. The time to try to prop up the Sun Belt movement is over. Obviously these teams see little support aside from when they’re winning a division title.

The NHL is clearly on an upswing, it is time the league step up and fix these floundering franchises for the overall good of the league.

6 thoughts on “New news on NHL realignment stirs the pot

  1. Garrett October 21, 2011 / 5:26 pm

    The PA will never allow contraction to happen so forget that idea entirely. Also, the notion that every player from those teams would suddenly be picked up by the others is laughable. Those teams are awful and don’t draw for a reason. Instead, move the Coyotes and Panthers to Seattle and Portland. The Canucks would love this as they would for the first time ever have teams near them. It would also allow for realignment that kinda makes sense.

    Northwest- Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Seattle
    Pacific- Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado, Anaheim, Portland
    Central- Chicago, Minnesota, St. Louis, Detroit, Toronto

    Southeast- Nashville, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Washington, Dallas
    Atlantic- New York, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey
    Northeast- Ottawa, Columbus, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Buffalo

    But that will never happen because it would simply make too much sense!


    • Chris Ostrander October 21, 2011 / 5:30 pm

      I was generalizing when referring to the dispersal of the players. It was more to make the point of the deepening of the talent pool around the league.

      I too would prefer to see 30 teams and a further saturation of the western market. Seattle/Portland would be a great location, as would Kansas City, if they could actually support a team. However, like you said, the most obvious solution makes too much sense to be carried out.


  2. 4kills5 October 24, 2011 / 11:32 am

    I think most of us who aren’t fans of pheonix wants to see that team contracted. Florida is a good pick to go along with them. They are sucking millions of dollars out of the NHL. Seattle would be a good relocation if they had an arena and could support the team (Maybe the old Seattle Sonics arena could be used? I don’t know)

    But assuming that teams aren’t contracted and no one moves again so soon, I’d like to see a 4 division format with no conferences:

    All of the reasons are there. Just another one of 10 billion realignment ideas going around.


    • Chris Ostrander October 25, 2011 / 12:27 pm

      I love the idea of 4 divisions, it makes scheduling a nightmare, but it also resolves so many issues that the league currently has.

      Key Arena (Seattle) isn’t set up for hockey, word is that many seats are obstructed. There were whispers of an ownership group finding funds for a team and arena just a few months ago. I think one more Eastern team needs to move West for things to settle down. Detroit can survive in the West based on their rivalries and their division schedule. Columbus and Nashville would benefit more from a move, which is why they should be getting the bump ahead of Detroit.


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