With the impending return of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg (Globe and Mail May 24th) the next question is where do they go in terms of re-allignment? The natural thought was, and probably still is, to move them into the North West with Calgary, Edmonon, Vancouver, Minnesota and Colorado in a sort of Smythe Division revsion. There are reports that re-allignment will not happen this season and that for the 2011-2012 season the team will remain in the South East along with Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Washington - here's hoping that they catch fire next season because a Jets South East Division Champion Banner hanging from the rafters at MTS would be too-funny by far. The official reason for not doing the reallignment right away is that it is too late in the game to make such a change but that sounds fishy to me. I think the bigger question is that Phoenix is not resolved (Glendale having only purchased another season of comedy for their $25 million) and the Islanders are also still in limbo pending an August plebiscite on a new arena in Naussau County.
Doug McLean over at Sportsnet let slip that one of the thoughts the NHL had, when the question of whether Detroit, Columbus or Nashville would be moving (ultimately) to the Eastern Conference was to go for a more radical reallingment - 3 Conferences, though McLean called them divisions, (West, East and Central). He didn't expand on that any but it got me thinking on how that would look and here is my take on one possible way to make it work:
Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Colorado, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix.
The Central (Option One - or North Central):
Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
The Central (Option Two - or South Central):
Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.
The East (Option One - with the North Central Option Above):
Boston, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, Nashville, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.
The East (Option Two - with the South Central Option Above):
Boston, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
Each Team would play 4 games with each team its own division (a total of 36 games), 2 games with each team in the other division (for 40 more games) and would fill out the 82 game schedule with 3 two-game series against other teams outside their division (6 games). These games would try and maintain and grow historic or natural rivalries (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia; Toronto and Vancouver; etc) and could also be used to fill the "quota" of "Face-Off" games in Europe.
The top team in each Conference/Division would be seeded 1-3 with the remaining 13 positions being ranked on a league-wide basis. In the second and subsequent rounds the match-ups are redone based on overall standings save that a Conference/Division win gives you an automatic 1-3 ranking. The higher seeded team has the option to have a 2-3-2 (as opposed to the 2-2-1-1-1) playoff format if there team is more than two time-zones away (Eastern vs Pacific).
Feel free to come, mock, critique, participate and circulate - if you think there is something of merit here: