NHL Realignment Is Good For The Game

In 1998 Gary Bettman broke up the four division NHL in favor of a geographically-based six division realignment; creating some problems,most notably diminishing previously long-standing rivalries. Here's one vote for a move back to four divisions.

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NHL Realignment Is Good For The Game

I kicked around the idea of realignment recently and when I presented the idea to the other NHL writers here at SB Nation I received a great deal of positive responses.  With that response, the editors thought I should present to you my proposal to realign the NHL for the better.  For reference purposes, I've brought back the post-expansion conference and division names.  Though NHL fans are often criticized for longing for the past, that's not what a realignment like this is about.  No matter what the divisions are named, this sort of alignment makes sense. Update the names to the Lemieux and Gretzky conferences, use directions, use the colors of the rainbow, it doesn't matter.  Pushing a shift onto the league for the betterment of the game matters.  I'm not living in the past, rather, I want the NHL to recreate the emotion and rivalries that were in the game previous to the Bettman-era expansion and cookie cutter approach to managing a hockey league and create new rivalries with Bettman expansion teams.  In this realignment proposal, all franchises remain in their current conference.  The Eastern Conference is up first.

Prince of Wales Conference

Atlanta Thrashers
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Carolina Hurricanes
Montreal Canadiens
Ottawa Senators
Toronto Maple Leafs

Florida Panthers
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Tampa Bay Lightning
Washington Capitals

The Capitals move back to the Patrick where they rightfully belong and the four southern teams are split among the two division.  Splitting the Southeast Division should help to boost attendance in southern markets.  Rather than playing each other in a round robin all year, snowbirds and imports will get to see northern teams much more often. Travel shouldn't be much of a concern as the travel distance in this eastern realignment is less than what exists in the current Northwest Division.  Speaking of the Western Conference...

Clarence Campbell Conference

Chicago Blackhawks
Columbus Blue Jackets
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators
St. Louis Blues

Anaheim Ducks
Calgary Flames
Colorado Avalanche
Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings
Phoenix Coyotes
San Jose Sharks
Vancouver Canucks

The only big move is Dallas from the Pacific, a silly place for a team from Texas, to the Norris, home of most of the Stars' historical rivals.  The Wild move from the Northwest, uniting the ex-North Stars with the replacement North Stars.

The impact is far-reaching.  No more weak sisters grabbing a third seed and home ice advantage.  Superstars and the big name teams appear at least once a year in every home city in the NHL.  Increased attendance in the southern markets solidifies the financial situation of teams that always seem to be on the brink.  Realignment would renew and intensify rivalries and playoff races.  Going back in time to bring back divisional wars is not a bad thing - it made for some unbelievable playoff series just twenty years ago.

The best part about this plan should be the easy sell.  There are no rule changes involved, no franchise relocations, and bringing money to the southern teams stabilizes the league and costs owners absolutely nothing.

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