NHL Realignment Scenarios For 2012 Could Feature Radical Changes, According To Reports

As a result of the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg to become the Jets at the start of the 2011-12 season, the National Hockey League will need to realign the league in the future. According to several reports, Commissioner Gary Bettman plans to radically alter the hockey landscape.

Currently, the Jets are in the Southeast Division with the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals. But simply moving a few teams around to accommodate the Jets in a new division is unlikely should the NHL's Board of Governor's approach Bettman's plan. The two-conference, three-division setup would be scrapped in favor of a two-conference, two-division scheme. Those divisions would still follow an East-West divide with Pacific, Midwest, East and South groupings.

In each conference, there would be an eight-team and a seven-team division. In order to make this proposal work, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings would likely shift over to the new Eastern Conference. SB Nation Detroit offers several realignment scenarios that move the Red Wings to the Eastern Conference, though all still involve three divisions in each conference. The more pressing concern, however, involves the specter of future realignment: if other teams, possibly Columbus or Phoenix, need to relocate to remain feasible franchises, will the NHL have to reshape itself again?

Winging It In Motown, our Red Wings blog, also looks at four ways the Wings could move to the Eastern Conference and concludes that playing in the Eastern Time Zone benefits them in the playoffs, but that their rivalry with the Chicago Blackhawks could disappear.

But for now, the citizens of Winnipeg stand to benefit with visits by star players such as the Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin, the Penguins' Sidney Crosby and the Lightning's Steven Stamkos.

For more hockey coverage, stick with our NHL hub.

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