FanPost

NHL Realignment: Where do the Sabres fit in?

With the movement of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, talk of realignment is going to be a pretty popular topic over the next year. Last week, Bettman reportedly proposed a major change that would create four divisions, rather than the current six. The proposed divisions would include the East, South, Midwest and Pacific. While realignment is certainly necessary, a four division structure would present some major problems. First off, there are currently only 30 teams in the NHL, which would mean two divisions would be comprised of 8 teams, while the other two would have only 7 teams. This leads to a sticky situation with both scheduling and playoff seeding. The standard 6 divisional games, 4 conference games scheduling structure is going to have to be thrown out the window and with uneven division sizes, it's going to be tough to replicate. Another problem is the suggested playoff format, rewarding the top four teams in each division. Under the proposed system, teams would be given a distinct advantage for playing in smaller divisions as they have one fewer team to compete with for a playoff spot. I've also heard suggestions of putting the two larger divisions in the Eastern Conference, which also would result in an unfair balance for teams fighting to reach the post season. Finally, restructuring the divisions is going to weaken divisional rivalries by reducing the number of games teams play against each other each year. 

The Four Division Proposal

Here is what a potential four division realignment might look like. It's not perfect, but no matter which way you do it, some teams aren't going to be satisfied. Geographically, this is tricky because the East obviously has the most teams. Biased as I am, the Northeast remained intact and was joined by the Rangers, Islanders, and Devils. The team that gets the worst end of the deal is probably the Flyers, which would lose a couple of rivalries, including the Rangers. The two Pennsylania teams moving south is really the easiest way to sort things out. Detroit has made it no secret that they want to move east, but with the ticket revenue they provide to Western Conference teams and their rivalry with Chicago, it would be a tough sell. In the event they were to move east, it doesn't make sense to put them in the Southern division. Thus, a team from the East would be forced to move south. Moving Boston and splitting up the biggest rivalry in hockey seems out of the question, so it would likely be the Islanders who would be forced to move. Columbus has also expressed interest in swapping conferences, but replacing Nashville in the South seems to be the only logically option. In the Western Conference, I stacked the Pacific with the Canadian teams, while bringing the Wild and Avalanche to the Midwest. Dallas has always seemed like an odd fit in the Pacific and hopefully a rivalry could develop between the Stars and their old home town.  

South

Florida, Tampa Bay, Washington, Carolina, Nashville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

 

East

Boston, Montreal, Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey

 

Midwest

Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, St. Louis, Minnesota, Colorado

 

Pacific

Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg

 

Standard six divisions

Alternatively, we keep the 6 division structure and swap around a handful of teams. Winnipeg would obviously move West, most likely to the Northwestern division. The smoothest transition would be to move either Nashville or Columbus to the Southeast and send either the Wild or Avalanche to the Central. From a competitive balance standpoint, the Thrashers are closer to the Blue Jackets than the Predators or Red Wings, but it could be argued that the Eastern Conference could use a boost. This would probably be my prefered option, as it fixes the alignment problem without making any drastic changes. The impact on the Sabres would be rather minimal.

 

Northeast

Boston, Montreal, Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa

 

Atlantic

New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh

 

Southeast

Florida, Tampa Bay, Washington, Carolina, Nashville

 

Central

Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, St. Louis, Minnesota

 

Northwest

Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Colorado

 

Pacific

Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Dallas

 

Detroit gets its wish

They were promised to be the first team considered to move East in a future realignment and they're part of the Eastern time zone. This change would likely require a bit more maneuvering due to geographical obstacles. Think of the media attention the newly created Northeast division would receive with 4 original six teams. NBC is happy as they can air even more Caps/Pens games and the Sabres are shipped off to the Atlantic for convenience. Rivalries with the Rangers or Flyers could strengthen, but at the cost of losing their current Northeastern rivalries.

 

Northeast

Detroit, Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa

 

Atlantic

Buffalo, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Philadelphia

 

Southeast

Florida, Tampa Bay, Washington, Carolina, Pittsburgh

 

Central

Nashville, Chicago, Columbus, St. Louis, Minnesota

 

Northwest

Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Colorado

 

Pacific

Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Dallas

 

Moving Out West

I don't even want to start to think about the headache a Phoenix to Quebec City move would cause for realignment. Two new franchises in the West would help sort things out, but I'm not sure that would be the greatest idea, with several existing franchises struggling. This was mostly for kicks and giggles, as there are much more likely options in this type of scenario. Following the introduction of the expansion teams in Quebec City and Las Vegas, the Sabres are randomly sent to the Western conference. At least we get to argue with Dallas fans a couple more times a year?

 

Southeast

Florida, Tampa Bay, Washington, Carolina, Nashville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus

 

East

Boston, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Ottawa, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey

 

Central

Buffalo, Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, , St. Louis,  Minnesota, Colorado,  Winnipeg

 

West

Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Las Vegas

 

 

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.

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