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NHL Realignment

NHL Logo - Image Credit: http://blogs.citypages.comThe six existing NHL divisions as we know them are changing. League officials have approved a complete realignment in an attempt to ease the concerns of certain teams, have traveling be more balanced, maintain rivalries, and have teams linked up with the region they are located in. The realignment sees the six divisions becoming four conferences (currently not yet named). The transferring of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg was probably the main reason why there was such a rush to reorganize the league.

Going to four conferences reminds me when the NHL had two conferences (Campbell of the west and Prince of Wales of the east) and four divisions (Norris and Smythe in the west, Adams and Patrick in the east). In 1993 the naming convention was changed and became the six divisions (Atlantic, Northeast, Southeast, Central, Northwest, and Pacific) the league currently has. It was a few years prior to the name change when I got into hockey and I always thought it was neat that the divisions and conferences had names of important and influential people of the sport. It was disappointing when the league decided to go with a geographical naming convention. Another reason for my nostalgia is that the league was free from the over expansion and team re-locations. I’m talking about the Quebec Nordiques, Hartford Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, and the Minnesota North stars.

Now that the NHL is back to a four division/conference format I wanted to compare the new alignment with the one prior to 1993.

Prince of Wales Conference

Patrick Division

  • New Jersey Devils
  • New York Islanders
  • New York Rangers
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Washington Capitals
Adams Division

  • Boston Bruins
  • Buffalo Sabres
  • Hartford Whalers
  • Montreal Canadiens
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Quebec Nordiques

Campbell Conference

Norris Division

  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Minnesota North Stars
  • St. Louis Blues
  • Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
Smythe Division

  • Calgary Flames
  • Edmonton Oilers
  • Los Angeles Kings
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Winnipeg Jets

Eastern Time Zone (A)

  • New Jersey Devils
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • New York Rangers
  • New York Islanders
  • Washington Capitals
  • Carolina Hurricanes
Eastern Time Zone (B)

  • Boston Bruins
  • Montreal Canadiens
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Buffalo Sabres
  • Florida Panthers
  • Tampa Bay Lightning

Eastern And Central Time Zone

  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Nashville Predators
  • St. Louis Blues
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Minnesota Wild
  • Dallas Stars
  • Winnipeg Jets
Mountain And Pacific Time Zone

  • Los Angeles Kings
  • Anaheim Ducks
  • Phoenix Coyotes
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Calgary Flames
  • Edmonton Oilers
  • Colorado Avalanche

Except for a couple of changes (e.g. the Tampa Bay Lightning were in the West when they entered the league) and some team re-locations, the new conference format is pretty much identical to the league setup prior to the 1993 change. Now the Winnipeg Jets will play against teams in their own time zone (as opposed to being in the Southeast Division playing against teams that were as much as 1800 miles away) and other teams will not have to travel constantly between time zones just to play teams in their own division.

The Eastern Time Zone (A) comprises of the current Atlantic Division with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes coming over from the Southeast Division. The Eastern Time Zone (B) follows suit by comprising the current Northeast division with the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning from the Southeast Division. Not much mixing up here.

The Eastern and Central Time Zone keeps the current Central Division intact with the Minnesota Wild from the Northwest Division, Dallas Stars from the Pacific Division, and the Winnipeg Jets from the Southeast Division. To me this is where the new realignment shines. It does not make sense for the centrally located Minnesota Wild to be a part of the Northwest, nor the centrally located Dallas Stars to be part of the Pacific. As mentioned earlier, the Winnipeg Jets were completely out of place being in the Southeast.

The Mountain and Pacific Time Zone correctly represents the teams it represents. The new conference is a union of the Northwest and Pacific divisions. The Northwest stays together except for the loss of the Minnesota Wild, but takes on the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, and the San Jose Sharks.

All that remains is what will happen to the new realignment if another struggling team (this means you Phoenix Coyotes and New York Islanders) relocates. Most hockey fans know that Quebec is dying to get a team back and even Hamilton, Ontario wants a team. There have even been rumors of Kansas City wanting a team. Will the newly relocated team have to grin and bear it if they are in the wrong time zone? It seems with having two conferences of seven teams and two with eight teams, that a team relocation should not disrupt the balance. Either way the new realignment is an exciting time for the NHL and I believe that it will only help the league.

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