Checking in on some NHL news and rumors, including more on the start of the 2020-21 season start.
Looking at the potential division realignment
We already know that a 56-game season starting in Mid-January is looking likely, and that it will come with a temporary realignment of the NHL’s four divisions.
That alignment will feature an all-Canadian division and three other temporary divisions.
On Wednesday, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that current alignment could look like this:
• Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
• Carolina, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, Tampa Bay
• Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas
• Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg
Some quick thoughts…
• The first is that would be an absolutely brutal alignment for the Sabres and their attempt to end the NHL’s longest current playoff drought.
That division is absolutely loaded. Buffalo and New Jersey are — on paper — the two weakest teams in the division and neither one of them is a complete pushover. A very good team in that division is going to miss the playoffs, and it is going to take quite a one-year turnaround for the Sabres to earn a spot in that setting.
They are better on paper after their offseason, but they still have enough flaws and good teams around them to make this a tough draw.
This is also by far the best division for rivalries.
• Carolina should be happy with this alignment.
In the original report, the Hurricanes and Penguins spots were swapped. This is a much more manageable alignment for the Hurricanes as there is a strong argument to be made they are the second best team in this division after Tampa.
It is also a nice break for Columbus to get away from the rest of the Metropolitan Division.
Every team in this division after Tampa has some kind of a significant flaw. Who can possibly challenge the Lightning here?
• The Blues being with the Pacific teams would be a disappointment to have them away from Chicago and Detroit.
The only rivalry that exists now for the Blues will be those matchups against Alex Pietrangelo. This division also seems to have a pretty significant gap between the top-four (Colorado, Dallas, St. Louis, Vegas) and the bottom-four (everybody else). It would be a significant upset if one of Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, or San Jose overtook one of the top-four teams.
• The Canadian division is definitely interesting on a short-term basis, but it just does not seem to be something that is viable on a long-term basis due to time zone differences and the travel schedule it would require.
For this year though it is going to be an incredibly competitive division.
Toronto is the best team on paper, but that has not meant much in recent seasons. Ottawa is the one team clearly rebuilding and at the bottom of the pack, but there is not much separating the rest of these teams.