NHL realignment for next season and what it could look like
There has been a lot of talk around the hockey world about when the NHL will start next season. As of right now, the league is holding firm to a January 1 date.
Related: NHL start date at risk due to COVID-19 spike
Gary Bettman on NHL realignment
When discussing travel between the borders, Bettman admitted there would need to be an all Canadian division. “It may be that we’re better off, particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating, keeping it geographically centric, more divisional based, and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues.”
There’s also discussions on playing in bubbles, which we knew was a possibility and no player really wants to be away from their family. “You’ll play for 10 to 12 days,” Gary Bettman began. “You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need.”
The Commissioner admitted that the plan would not be as effective as it was during Return to Play. Still he feels it minimizes risk and is something the NHLPA would go for.
So what would NHL realignment look like?
When you talk about realignment you have to consider geography first and foremost. Then there needs to be a level of consideration for rivalries. With that in mind, let’s start with the easiest division to put together.
CANADIAN DIVISION: Canadiens, Canucks, Flames, Jets, Maple Leaf, Oilers, and Senators.
The all Canada division is solely based on geography, due in large part to travel restrictions at the U.S. Canada border. In truth, who the hell wouldn’t want more Flames/Oilers and Habs/Leafs to watch. Thankfully there are only 7 Canadian teams making it easier to even out the other three.
EASTERN DIVISION: Bruins, Capitials, Devils, Flyers, Islanders, Penguins, Rangers, and Sabres.
The East division has the least amount of travel but could also be the toughest. It is loaded with the biggest and meanest rivalries dating back to the old Patrick Division.
CENTRAL DIVISION: Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Blues, Hurricanes, Lightning, Panthers, Red Wings and Wild.
This one is an admitted mess. It is a hodgepodge of teams but they make the most geographic sense. It also contains old Norris Division rivals in Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and Minnesota as well as geographic ones like Florida and Tampa.
WESTERN DIVISION: Avalanche, Ducks, Coyotes, Kings, Knights, Predators, Sharks, and Stars.
The west is without a doubt the weakest division and will be a three team race to the top. Colorado, Vegas, and Dallas will fight it out to win the division as they feast on lesser teams all season. There are some rivalries here, but this is strictly geographical.