NHL Realignment: The Moves That Should Happen

Realignment talk.

Social media buzzed the day before yesterday surrounding speculation that the Detroit Red Wings are the likely frontrunners to move to the Eastern Conference next season with the addition of the Winnipeg Jets to the NHL. TSN’s resident hockey know-it-all Bob McKenzie tweeted the Red Wings seem to be the consensus amongst NHL governors to move East.

Personally, I would love to see the Red Wings in the East. An Original Six franchise, Detroit – much like their counterpart the Rangers – are a team rich with tradition, harkening back to the Gordie Howe days. Not to mention the winningest NHL franchise in the United States with 11 Stanley cups.  Seeing the talents of Niklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg roaming Eastern Conference ice would be a welcomed sight.

The rumored move is a simple one: Detroit goes to the Southeast division and Winnipeg slots in to the Central. Pretty simple, right? Wrong. In fact, it’s the last move that should be done.

Join me after the jump to find out the alignment I’d like to see.

In terms of geography, the simplest move involves the Nashville Predators, not Red Wings, moving east. Despite being in the central time zone, Nashville is in much closer proximity to the southeast than Detroit is. This move could also birth a rivalry with the Carolina Hurricanes, a franchise with a loyal fan base and no real division foe to make their blood boil. Winnipeg moving to the Central division would still happen in this proposal.

But there’s one variable that must be taken into consideration: Mike Illitch. Bob McKenzie adds more on this matter:

But Plan A doesn’t take into account the Mike Ilitch Factor. Ilitch, of course, is the venerable owner of the Detroit Red Wings and a couple of weeks ago he went public, suggesting that NHL commissioner Bettman years ago promised, when Detroit was put in the Western Conference, that if in the future a Western Conference team had to relocate to the Eastern side it would be the Red Wings.

Never underestimate the power of Gary Bettman. It’s the key reason I believe the Red Wings could be calling the East home next season. Having said that, where’s the best fit for them? It’s not the Southeast as most have suggested, but the Northeast division.

In this proposal, Detroit moves into the Northeast, Boston shifts down to the Atlantic, and Pittsburgh slides in to the Southeast. Despite not being in the northeast, Detroit lines up fairly well in travel to their new division teams Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, and Montreal.

Boston has a chance to renew its rivalry with the Rangers by playing 2 more games per season against their Original-Six foe in the Atlantic division. The Flyers wouldn’t mind facing – and in their minds beating – the Stanley Cup champions more often.

The final move, and key to the entire proposal because of how much the NHL adores this rivalry, is the Pittsburgh Penguins turning back the clock to be in the same division as the Washington Capitals. It’s well documented both teams despise each other because of past events and adding competition for a division title to their agenda could make the games they play too remarkable to pass on.

Will this be the realignment NHL fans see next year? Odds are against it. There are plenty of teams (Dallas, Columbus etc.) that can make a strong case to move. However, I believe it’s a win-win for all the teams involved. As they say, you just never know.


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