Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Weighing the NHL's Reallignment Options

Today, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported that the Detroit Red Wings could move to the Eastern Conference for the 2012-13 season.  While that is not set in stone, there will be a team moving east as Winnipeg moves out west.  So here's a look at some of the NHL's reallignment options for next season and beyond.

Winnipeg Jets - Eastern Conference to Western Conference

Pros - The Edmonton Oilers will finally have a fair opponent four times per season.
Cons - Roberto Luongo will have to see Dustin Byfuglien more often again, unless Cory Schneider starts.

Detroit Red Wings - Western Conference to Eastern Conference

Pros - Classic rivalries, such as Wings-Leafs, can be renewed...until the Wings show that it isn't really a rivalry anymore.
Cons - The Caps couldn't choke out of the playoffs...as the East's number one seed.

Nashville Predators

Pros - Nashville wouldn't have to worry about facing Vancouver.  Or Chicago.  Or Detroit.  Or any of those teams in the first round or two in the playoffs.
Cons - Mike Fisher would actually have to go back to Ottawa from time to time.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Pros - Columbus to the East means more home games for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Cons - Columbus to the East means less home games for the Blackhawks and Red Wings.

Verdict: From a geographical standpoint, it would make the most sense to move Nashville to the Southeast division, which is exactly why that won't happen.  In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if say, Vancouver moved to the Southeast division.

Impact of reallignment: Following the dramatic move of a franchise from Atlanta to Winnipeg, re-alligning the divisions is necessary to restore logical and geographic order in the league...until Phoenix inevitably moves the following season and we do this all over again.

What's next?  Once the NHL re-alligns the divisions, they're unlikely to want to re-allign them again because well, it takes work to move teams around.  However, the league should look into making moves now, rather than wait.  Quebec City, Kansas City, Seattle and Mexico City (I have no idea how that got there...) are all cities that could handle an NHL franchise.

Prediction: Gary Bettman gets a bad headache from the whole reallignment thing and moves Winnipeg back to Atlanta and thinks he's saved hockey.