Things are going to look odd this year with Winnipeg playing in the Southeast Division and the Red Wings and Blue Jackets continuing to play in the Eastern time zone while existing in the Western Conference. Those days may be long over after this season, however, as it’s being reported by The Sporting News’ Craig Custance that major realignment is on the way to the NHL next season.
With Winnipeg in the Southeast and three teams in Columbus, Detroit, and Nashville itching to get out of the Western Conference and into the Eastern Conference, something’s got to give to help make sense of things for all the teams and help normalize things. Custance talked with an unnamed NHL executive who said that things will break down in a most fascinating way.
“The fact remains that there are three teams that should be in the East that are in the West,” the executive said. “The only way you can make everybody happy is by restructuring the whole thing. That’s what they’re working on.”
The leading plan calls for the league to be divided into four divisions — two with eight teams and two with seven teams. The plan is expected to be finalized during the December Board of Governers meetings.
Huh, four divisions you say? Two with seven teams? Say, there’s seven Canadian teams in the NHL once again with Winnipeg back in the mix. That wouldn’t be too obvious, right?
This kind of set up also makes us think back to when the divisions had legendary names like Patrick, Adams, Norris, and Smythe and they played in the Campbell and Wales Conferences. With throwbacks being all the rage, especially with Winnipeg going by the Jets once again, it’d be fascinating to see things shake down like that again. It’s doubtful but you never know.
What will be most interesting is how they’ll breakdown the playoffs out of this setup. Another throwback idea could involve the NHL bringing back the divisional playoffs that see the top four teams in each division make the postseason and then face off tournament style against each other like the NHL used to do in the 1980s.
In that format the division leader would face the fourth place team and the second and third place teams would battle to face each other in the divisional finals. The winners of the divisional playoffs would then square off in the conference finals and then on to the Stanley Cup finals. With rumors of a balanced schedule coming back, settling things out this way would again make sense because then every team is playing each other evenly.
That much is far off and with the possibility of the new alignment being worked out at the December Board of Governors meeting we’ll have something figured out soon enough. For now, it’s time for everyone to get creative with how they think things will end up being broken down. Do we see a resurrection of the Norris Division? Will we get an all-Canada division? How about the return of the Patrick Division where you get Washington and Pittsburgh joining the Flyers, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils? Good lord. Give it your best shot in the comments to figure things out.