The day is coming when the NHL will realign again as the Winnipeg Jets would have to leave a division that includes Washington, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida. However, last night, Bob McKenzie started tweeting that the only realignment that might occur is a swap of the Jets to the Central Division and the Red Wings into the Southeast. I know the Red Wings are desperate to leave the Western Conference, but it seems wrong that they are abandoning their rivals in Chicago and St. Louis (at least without re-energizing their rivalries with the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs). How about the Dallas Stars, still stuck in the Pacific Division, even though they are geographically closer to each team in the Central. Shouldn't the NHL scrap the six-division format in it's entirety? Yes, it needs to be at least 4 divisions (or conferences where Greg Wyshynski called at in this Puck Daddy post). And I have two ways for the NHL to align them. Here's the first one, which does the job, but it seems ordinary:
Western: LA, Anaheim, SJ, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix, Colorado.
Yes, I'm not leaving the Jets in this division. Travel benefits all these teams and each game can be played no earlier than 9 PM EST.
Central: Dallas, Winnipeg, Minnesota, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville.
Sorry Detroit, you still play in a more Western division, but my plan will have an equal amount of games between non-divisional opponents, so there will be less travel; which is your compromise for staying sorta West.
Northeast: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia
Splitting the East teams was the hardest chore, as it's either the Rangers in the Northeast with the Islanders and Devils, or the Penguins with the Flyers. This is one where I can go either way with.
Atlantic: Rangers, Islanders, New Jersey, Washington, Columbus, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay.
Columbus gets to move to the East because of this format. They are another team which I can see in the Northeast instead, in order to start a rivalry with the Penguins, but you can always have Pittsburgh and Philly in this division in order to do so.
Figure that each team is guaranteed to play their division foes 5 times, and a home and away against everyone else. Since that leaves an uneven amount of games (8-division teams are at 79, 7 -div at 76), I figure will use what the NHL does now and add some random games. The 7 division teams will have 6 games against one another. The 8-division teams will fill the last 3 games with games against the opposite 8-team division. As for the playoffs, you do either a 1 vs 16 format, or you start with divisional playoff round, like in the 80s, then reseed at that point. That is probably a sensible way to realign the NHL for the 2011-12 season. However, there are more way to arrange the league and I will have another realignment option that fortunately, I'm not really seeing as of yet and think can work out. This will be done for tomorrow, so comeback for Part II.