As the National Hockey League tries to piece together the puzzle for the 2021 season, the league is likely considering a realignment of its respective divisions. This move would be made for several reasons, including the continued closure of the US/Canadian border. Both sides are still having their own struggles with the ongoing pandemic, the border remains closed, and trafficking players back and forth over the border for games would be less than ideal. The realignment would also attempt to cut down on overall travel for teams, although it’s unclear at this point if teams would only play within their division or not.
With that said, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski posted on Twitter what he's heard the potential division realignments could look like, and they’re.... interesting, to say the least.
To put all of this into perspective, here’s a map of what these divisions would look like:
For the Sabres, this realignment would mean:
- What Toronto/Buffalo rivalry? Obviously, it makes sense to have all the Canadian teams in one division, but this could mean losing the Toronto/Buffalo rivalry, even if it is only for a season. Depending on how the NHL structures its schedule, it’s possible that we wouldn’t see the Maple Leafs in Buffalo at all this season. Then again, that also means the Sabres wouldn’t have to play in front of an arena that’s half full with Leafs fans.... so....
- Maintaining a rivalry with the Bruins, which is always fun.
- Joining something along the lines of an Atlantic Division. As you can see visually on the map, Buffalo and Carolina would join a slew of teams near the coast in the same division.
- Wait... Buffalo and Carolina? In the same division, in a season where the Sabres have Kevyn Adams as GM and also have Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal? Oh, this could be good....
In general, this alignment would make sense, or at least as much sense as trying to play a season of professional hockey amidst a global pandemic makes.
Of course, there’s a decent amount of travel in the Canadian division; Vancouver to Montreal isn’t exactly a fun, casual weekend drive. There are also four different time zones reflected in this single division, too.
Meanwhile, the Central Division has five of the last six Stanley Cup Champions, so to the other teams in that division, may the odds be ever in your favor.
Breaking up Pittsburgh & Philadelphia seems strange, and it’s almost like Buffalo could’ve gone over to that Central Division instead, given that there’s only about 3.5 hours of driving travel between the 716 and the 412. Boston & Montreal is also a fun rivalry that gets split by the border closure.
I’d also make the argument that Minnesota could’ve gone into that Central Division, too, given all the other teams in the West are much further south. The two Florida teams are also kind of outliers no matter where you put them, but maybe I would’ve slapped them into the East Division and put Buffalo and Minnesota in the Central in their place. But hey, none of this is for sure yet anyways, so who knows?
What are your thoughts on this potential realignment for the upcoming season?