The NHL’s new realignment plan was rolled out tonight on Hockey Night in Canada’s Satellite Hotstove. It looks a lot like last year’s failed plan, with a few key changes.
The new alignment keeps the “four conferences” aspect of the 2012 proposal. As with last year’s, there are two conferences of eight teams and two of seven. The big difference is that the two easternmost conferences now are the ones with eight teams, while the westernmost ones have seven.
The proposed realignment is as follows:
Conference 1: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Conference 2: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Conference 3: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Conference 4: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
The differences from the last proposal are that the Blue Jackets move from Conference 3 to Conference 1, the Red Wings move from Conference 3 to Conference 2, and the Avalanche move from Conference 4 to make up the loss in Conference 3.
The Red Wings would appear to be at least short-term winners in the deal, as it would put them in a conference with three Original Six rivals as opposed to just one in Conference 3. While they’d be saddled with the Florida teams, they get to stay in the Eastern Time Zone, mostly in the Northeast.
Long term, the Red Wings could be back where they started. If the NHL is indeed looking at expansion or relocation, Quebec City has to be one of the frontrunners. The only conference they fit in would be Conference 2, which would give it nine teams. With the Northeast footprint, Detroit would be the easy team on the outs. They could slide into Conference 1 and push Columbus out, but Detroit still fits the Conference 3 footprint nicely so it would make sense that they go there.
The proposal still needs to be presented to and approved by the NHLPA, which was the stumbling block last time, so this may never be implemented. Additionally, there may be a as-of-yet-undefined “wild card” to account for playoff seeding in unbalanced conferences. The conferences also remain without names for the time being.
The league says they’d like to see realignment addressed in the next week, so we’ll see what happens.