With the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg, there is talk that the NHL will need to realign next season. As NHL commissioner for the day, you are charged with realigning the Western Conference so pick 14-16 teams to play in the West and break them into divisions as you see fit.
Kind of like the Kariya and Selanne signings, this question probably was better in idea than execution. I didn't consider how tough it might be to differentiate all the different answers (nor did I realize what a bear this one would be to edit). Still, these are some great answers (are you reading, Gary?) and this is a question that could have a very real impact on the team next year. And, of course, it will impact the sleep patterns of East Coast fans like Geoff and I.
Geoff Rosenthal, The Avs Factor: Let me preface this by saying that if the Avs are moved to the Pacific Division, I'm going to be pretty annoyed. I already stay up too late watching hockey. This East Coaster doesn't need games to start another hour later. With that in mind:
"The Never To Be Seen On TV Division" "The We Screwed With Detroit, Moved Columbus Division"
San Jose Dallas
Los Angeles St. Louis
Not surprisingly, lots of people would rather move Columbus to the East instead of oft-mentioned Detroit.
Nic Zamora, Avaholics Anonymous: Columbus would be the team I would move out east. I would put the Canadian teams in the same division and the California teams in the same division. The Avs would move to the Pacific and Dallas to the Central. Northwest - Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota, Vancouver, Winnipeg. Pacific - Anaheim, Colorado, LA, Phoenix, San Jose. Central - Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis.
Brett Shumway, Mile High Hockey:
Southwest: San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Colorado
Northwest: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota
Central: St Louis, Dallas, Chicago, Nashville, Detroit
These divisions lessen the travel for every team involved within division, excluding the central who would have to go to Dallas rather than Columbus, but they had travel easy anyways. Bitches. It's a toss-up between Columbus and Detroit to get booted from the West. Geographically I'd toss out Columbus, but my heart is powered by my desire to see the Avs devour Red Wings, so I'd keep Detroit in the West in hopes that the rivalry is rekindled. Besides, the East already has 4 of the original six, let's let the West have 2.
Here's what I would do:
|Western Conference||Eastern Conference|
|Pacific Division:||Northeast Division:|
|Phoenix||New York Rangers|
|New York Islanders|
|Central Division:||Southeast Division:|
|St Louis||New Jersey|
The schedule would shake down like this. All teams in the league would play each other at least once. Within the Western conference, teams would play each other 4 times. In the East, it would be 3 times each. Finally, each team would play its division rivals 6 times. The season would reduce to 80 games. The post-season brackets would work as it does in the AHL: top 4 within each division would duke it out for top dog. The top teams in each division become the conference finalists.
This isn’t by any means an original idea. In fact, it’s been discussed on this blog as well as many others. It makes the most sense to me for a lot of reasons, the most important of which is the fostering of rivalries. Games between rivals are the most entertaining. Moreover, if you’re going to play that many games within one division, it doesn’t make sense to end the season with those divisions meaning essentially nothing other than the placement of the top 3 seeds. The way these divisions are set up, a few rivalries would be lost or diminished, but others would develop to take their places. As for Colorado’s division, it may not be ideal in terms of divisional foes. Some of the teams are quite boring (* cough * Wild * cough *), and the Avalanche get stuck with a ton of travel miles. However, based on time zones and overall league travel, it’s the best option within this plan. It would also keep the Avs out of the Pacific Division, which is full of teams that always seem to bring the beat down.
Meanwhile, a couple are in favor of sending Detroit to the East perhaps so they can be closer to Amway headquarters
With the Winnipeg Jets likely switching to the Western Conference, I would boot Detroit to the Eastern Conference; keeping each side with 15 teams. I understand there has been some chatter of having four divisions of seven or eight teams, but I prefer the current format. I'm not creative, so I'll keep the division names the same.
Ryan Boulding, The Avalanche Guild:
This would, given the present state of teams, make the newly named North/West division one of the weakest in the West. It does make sense though based on geography.
Or, you could send BOTH Columbus and Detroit to the East.
Adrian Dater, Denver Post:
MIDWEST (OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT AS A NAME) Winnipeg Minnesota St. Louis Chicago Nashville Edmonton Florida Calgary
PACIFIC Colorado Phoenix San Jose Los Angeles Anaheim Dallas Vancouver
Under this alignment, I have Winnipeg and Florida moving from the East to the West, and Columbus and Detroit going to the East. Florida in the West, you say? Hey, it's no weirder than having an eastern city like Columbus in the West. Florida has no rivalry at all with Tampa Bay, mostly because the true natives of Florida don't give a hoot about hockey. It's all the transplants - many from Canada - who care there. They'll show up more to see Canadian teams play there than places like Buffalo. I think it's practically a given now that the Avs will move to a "Pacific" division next year - especially if Phoenix moves to a new city, which I'd say is better than even money at this point.
Derek Bell, Mile High Hockey:
Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix
Winnipeg, Minnesota, Colorado, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas
Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey
Detroit, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida
This alignment makes the most sense because it bases the division members based on the time zones they are in. I'm all for Detroit having to travel as much as possible and being tired and worn down at the end of the season from traveling all over the place, but it just makes sense for them and Columbus to play in the Eastern Conference since they play in the Eastern Time Zone.
Instead of Columbus, another option would be to send Nashville to the East:
Mike Chambers, Denver Post: Winnipeg goes to the Western Conference and Nashville goes east. The Red Wings may prefer to go to the Eastern Conference for travel purposes, but Detroit has too many established rivals in the west. Keep the Wings where they are. Not going to list the divisions here.
Mike Verminski, Put It On Ice: Not necessarily how I would like the divisions to be, but how I think they should be based on geography.
Northwest Division: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, San Jose
West Division: Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, Colorado, Dallas
Central Division: Minnesota, Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus, Detroit
Jaye Horbay, Mile High Sticking: A story I got so sick of reading was conference re-alignment and now I have to bring it back, thanks guys ;) Okay here goes..
Detroit (no way they're moving out)
Pacific (finally a true ‘Pacific' division)
Phoenix (ah crap, spoke to soon, they'll be in Quebec this time next season anyways)
(Nashville would be moved to the Southeast to replace Atlanta)
And then there's the potential monkey wrench in Phoenix
Andi D, Mile High Hockey: If I was NHL commissioner for a day, the first thing I would do is move Phoenix. Even though it sucks for the fans, it's time to end that mess and move on. I'm not sure where the team would go, but for the sake of this argument, let's say that Phoenix moves to Quebec and joins the Eastern Conference. From there, instead of realigning the divisions, I'd abolish them completely. In their place, I'd opt for a calendar where a team plays all the teams in the other conference 2 times (once at home, once on the road), and all the teams in their conference 4 times. It would mean 86 games a year with 30 out of conference and 56 in conference. Playoffs would simply be the 8 teams with the highest point totals in each of the conferences. And since rivalries are typically born in the playoffs more than by geography, I don't think getting rid of divisions would hurt the league at all. It would greatly simplify things, and it would mean the Avs would only have to see the Canucks, Wild, Flames and Oilers 4 times a year instead of 6. In my opinion, that's a good thing.
Matt Muzia, SBNation Denver:
Northwest: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Minnesota
Pacific: San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Colorado, Dallas (Phoenix moves to Hamilton)
Central: Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus
I'm actually mostly happy with the current division alignments.
One thing that warms my heart is that so many proposals have just two divisions per conference instead of three
Stephen Crociata, Mile High Sticking & SBNation New York: I'm personally in favor of the two division realignment which puts the Jets, Wild, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Stars, and Predators in one division; while the Avalanche, Oilers, Kings, Coyotes, Canucks, Flames, Ducks, and Sharks are in another division.
Norbert from Austria, Eurolanche.com: As NHL commissioner, I would realign the NHL to four divisions instead of six divisions. In the West, there should be a central division consisting of 8 teams and a pacific division consisting of 7 teams. The central division should consist of the current central division teams plus teams Minnesota, Winnipeg and Dallas. The pacific division should get the current pacific division teams (minus Dallas) plus Colorado, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
This alignment may also reduce some of the travelling-issues in the NHL as travelling concentrates more on north-south-flights for all western Teams, which would provide more equality in travelling time in the West.
Or, if you really wanted to shake things up...
Austin Snow, Avs Chill Zone: I think a major shakeup of the conferences and alignments could be fun. I'm having a major problem figuring out how to do that though. Geographically, I want to put the Red Wings into the Eastern Conference to offset the Atlanta move to Phoenix, but I just don't see such a major shift in power happening. Losing the Red Wings would really cripple the Western Conference. Conversely, I feel like the Columbus Blue Jackets or Nashville Predators could move to the East with relative ease.
I did a piece on realignment a couple months back, and to me a good plan would be to shift the Jackets to the East, put Winnipeg into the NW division, and shift Colorado into the central. Maybe stir up the Wings rivalry a bit and keep the northern teams playing each other.
But my ultimate shakeup would be to introduce two totally new conferences, such as the AFC & NFC or NL & AL, with two or three geographically aligned divisions per conference. A totally changed NHL landscape could drive fans' interest, and you could maintain certain matchups within conferences and/or divisions. For instance, keep Pittsburgh and Washington in the same division. Teams would share travel burdens more evenly under this plan too. Off the top of my head, teams I would include in the Avs' conference would be: Vancouver, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis, Detroit, Columbus, Montreal, Boston, Buffalo, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Tampa, and Carolina.
Finally, while those are all great proposals, AJ wins the thread with simplicity.
AJ Haefele, Mile High Hockey: Leave it as is just so Detroit fans still have something to whine about all the time :D
Although he did forget to include "Presented by Amway". Regardless of where the Avalanche end up, I really hope the league goes back to two divisions per conference, resurrecting divisional playoffs in the process. Not that I'll be holding my breath
No poll today. Tomorrow we leave the hypothetical behind and start with some hard-hitting analysis, kicking things off with a look at Avalanche GM Greg Sherman.