With the NHL Board of Governors meeting next week in Pebble Beach, California, fans may finally get their long-awaited answer as to how the league plans to deal with realignment next season after the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg this past summer, throwing the league out of whack as Winnipeg is playing in Atlanta’s Eastern Conference spot but should rightfully be a Western Conference team.
It appears as if there are two front-running suggestions right now. The first involves an even swap where Detroit would move to the East and Winnipeg to the West. This would be the simplest move for the NHL to make, which means it will never happen.
The other suggestion involves a complete realignment that shifts away from the two-conference, six-division standard and instead implements a four-division league where two of the divisions have seven teams and the other two have eight. If this idea is agreed upon, it’s likely that the Board of Governors will also alter the schedule so that each team plays every other team at home and on the road at least once during the regular season.
As a hockey fan, I’m more intrigued by the complete reformation. It would certainly be more fun from a fan’s point of view to play every team at home at least once. That way, fans all over can see Steve Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and countless others at their home arena once every season. Plus, this proposal would also include two rounds of divisional playoffs – something that should increase the bad blood between division rivals. If this strategy could produce rivalry playoff matchups even remotely to the level of Detroit-Colorado in the late 1990’s, I’m all for it.
The problem is that two-thirds of the Board of Governors has to approve whatever method they propose. That’s probably the most likely reason why they will not adopt a simply strategy where Detroit moves to the East and Winnipeg to the West. Too many Western Conference general managers like having Detroit come to their arena twice a season to help draw in fans. Add in the fact that each team will also play host to Crosby, Ovechkin and Stamkos and you’re looking at a big increase in profits during those games.
The other reason why I believe they will adopt a complete restructuring involves the Phoenix Coyotes. The city of Glendale, where the Coyotes’ arena resides, has stated they will not pay for the Coyotes any longer. Unless there is a buyer in place by the end of this season, the Coyotes will likely be on the move. If the general managers agree to a straight Detroit-for-Winnipeg swap, they could be in the exact same position next season if Phoenix moves East (although I hear Las Vegas and Washington are possible destinations if Phoenix moves).
For the time being, however, I am still holding out hope that the league will adopt my strategy that drops two teams completely and moves to four, seven-team divisions. Sorry Phoenix and Columbus, you are the weakest links. Goodbye.