As all of you well know, the NHL has gone through two seasons dealing with the embarrassment of having Winnipeg, one of the least southy and easty teams in the league, playing in the Southeast Division, and in response have proposed a more geographically sound realignment plan, which fans may love or hate for various reasons.
Of course, the NHL, in putting forth their realignment plan, ignored the most geographically sound model they could've possibly considered. Yes, as you well know, I am speaking of the NFL in the late 90s. Nobody cared more about minimizing travel, and nobody cared more about preserving rivalries. We could learn a lot from the 1998 NFL alignment.
So what would the NHL look like if they followed this model? Let's take a look. The league would, as it is currently, be divided into two conferences, each with three five-team divisions. Let's call them, for no reason at all, the American Hockey Conference and the National Hockey Conference. Now what would these conferences look like? Let's find out.
American Hockey Conference
This NFL division stayed properly on the Atlantic coast, as home to New England, New York, Buffalo, Miami, and. . . ummmm. . . Indianapolis. The NHL comparison is easy to see. This division should be home to the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres, and Florida Panthers. Representing Indianapolis. . . uhhh, Toronto is kinda like Indianapolis, right? They both cheer for blue teams. Whatever, Toronto Maple Leafs, come join us.
This division is harder to handle, as it is home to three cities that lack NHL teams: Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Cincinnati, along with Pittsburgh and Tennessee. The latter two are easy to handle. Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, come on down. I'm sure you'll be old enemies in no time. Cincinnati isn't too difficult either. As the only NFL team (at the time) in Ohio, it's natural parallel is the Columbus Blue Jackets. I'm not even lying when I say the Jackets will love it here. They need Penguins fans to buy tickets to their arena. And they can continue their long tradition of losing to the Predators. Works for everyone! Baltimore is more difficult, but we're up for the challenge. We need a city no one actually wants to visit that is somehow home to a team that's won a couple championships. Oh, hey, New Jersey Devils, where'd you come from? Anyways, grab a seat. I have the perfect place for you. Our final member will be the toughest to find, as the NHL doesn't have tons of random Southeastern teams lying around. But we can find a Jacksonville of spirit. We need someone who's third-fiddle in their own state. . . or province. Yes, I see you there Ottawa Senators. People not noticing you? Too busy talking about the Leafs and the new team that will one day be in Hamilton we swear? It's okay, you'll fit right in here. Great! Have a seat and meet your new rivals.
In the NFL, home to Denver, Oakland, Seattle, Kansas City, and San Diego. But Oakland, we feel that San Francisco truly represents Northern California, so we're going to pretend you're still in Los Angeles, okay? And San Diego, you're kinda close to Anaheim, right? Awesome. Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, come meet the Colorado Avalanche. Since there's no NHL team in Seattle (yet), we'll have to represent the Seahawks by the region more broadly. Vancouver Canucks, come join us. And. . . uhhhh. . . Kansas City. Right. You don't have an NHL team either. So what's special about you? The weather's kinda bad a lot? Okay, the Edmonton Oilers needed a home anyways.
National Hockey Conference
In the NFL, we see Dallas, Washington, New York, Philadelphia, and Arizona. Wow, who knew things could be so easy? Dallas Stars, Washington Capitals, you may renew one of the greatest rivalries in sports. You'll be joined by the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, two teams who might actually really hate each other. And of course, we can't complete the division without the Phoenix Coyotes. Because. . . well, it's obvious, right? I thought so.
Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay. The Chicago Blackhawks will be happy to hear that they can keep their 100% real rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings. The Minnesota Wild actually fit here pretty naturally as well. They already get to hate Detroit and Chicago in all the other sports. Might as well add hockey. Green Bay is a little tougher. What hockey team do you think of when you hear "Frozen Tundra"? Oh wait, that's not actually tough, is it? The only problem is that Green Bay usually wins at stuff. Winnipeg Jets, maybe you can change your name to Winning-peg so that nobody will notice that you actually suck. Okay? Good. And lest the most sensible division in the league get too sensible, we'll give the Tampa Bay Lightning some expansion nostalgia and reunite them with old rivals.
This is really the pinnacle of arranging things geographically. San Francisco, St. Louis, Carolina, Atlanta, and New Orleans. Without an NHL team in San Francisco, Northern California will be represented by the San Jose Sharks, who will be joined by their rival St. Louis Blues and Carolina Hurricanes. Now we need a team from Atlanta. Preferably one who's mostly bad but every once in a while pretends to be good. Oh, hey, the
Atlanta Calgary Flames are still left. Let's pick them. Now we need a rival for Atlanta Calgary. Really the only criteria is that their rival speaks French. Yeah, that would about as well as we could've dreamed, didn't it? Montreal Canadiens, you know this is the only place for you.
So there you have it. The only proper way to realign the NHL. Two conferences, six divisions. The geography is perfect. Okay, maybe not perfect, but we at least mentioned geography a couple times. And rivalries are
preserved considered. This is how it should look.
Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
Los Angeles Kings
New York Rangers
Detroit Red Wings
Tampa Bay Lightning
San Jose Sharks
St. Louis Blues
Atlanta Calgary Flames