NHL Realignment: Radical Four-Division Plan Might Have Support

Another radical NHL realignment plan was outlined on CBC's Hockey Night In Canada on Saturday evening, and it's a plan that again shifts to a four-division format that eliminates the need for conferences.

With the details coming via CBC, here's a map of the new alignment that's been put together by Cassie McClellan over at Lightning blog Raw Charge. You can click to enlarge.

Nhl-realignment-map_2011-12-03_medium

This solution answers a lot of the problems that have surrounded the realignment debate. The Dallas Stars are removed from the Pacific Division, rivalries are preserved in the East, regional hatred is amped up with the return of divisional playoff rounds, etc. 

But there are a few glaring issues that remain. For starters, Detroit and Columbus are still isolated from the Eastern Time Zone, and one of the major issues has been their desire to play games against more teams in their own time zone. HNIC gave no hints as to how the schedule would break down under this format, but the home-and-home against every team in the league idea is reportedly part of the plan here. 

Travel is still much easier for the two Eastern divisions in this format, but that's kind of just a fact of life in the NHL. There are more teams in closer confines in the eastern portion of the continent, and there's no changing that. Even still, travel likely gets easier for the teams on the West Coast, and as a result, this proposal seems to have the support of just about every current Western Conference team. 

Any proposal needs 20 of the league's 30 teams to sign off on it at the Board of Governors meeting this week in Pebble Beach, Calif. Even if Columbus and Detroit are against this plan -- and it's possible that they are not -- could there be support from 20 teams? 

14 Western teams, plus you have to imagine the Washington Capitals support this plan, getting them out of the Southeast Division and back with their traditional rivals in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the rest of the old Patrick Division. The Penguins and Flyers almost certainly support this plan as well, considering their main concerns are that the Battle of Pennsylvania rivalry continue, as it does in this plan. 

That gets us to about 17 teams, and with the Atlantic Division rivalries still intact, you might be able to assume that you can get votes from New Jersey and the two New York teams. If not, it really hinges on how the Florida teams feel about this plan.

The Panthers and Lightning will certainly have to travel more, but that rivalry with each other remains intact and the money from the transplanted fans from up north, who suddenly get to see their teams much more in the two Florida rinks, seems like it could be hard to pass up. 

Either way, it's likely to be a close vote, and it's going to hinge on some Eastern Conference interests. Would more teams support this plan than a simple switch of Detroit to the East, Winnipeg to the West? You have to think that a lot of Eastern teams would be happy without the powerhouse that is the Red Wings joining their ranks, right? 

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