True North Sports and Entertainment just announced their purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers, whom they will be moving to Winnipeg with a name this is still to be determined. (For remainder of this post I will refer to them as the Winnipeg Jets, although that option seems unlikely)
With the Thrashers, who were in the Southeast Division moving to Winnipeg, which is neither south nor east of anything (except maybe Alaska) the NHL is going to have to do some type of realignment.
While it has already been announced that the Jets will play in the Southeast for one more year before a realignment, I am going to take the virtue of what happens a year from now.
The most important part of my realignment, is that I am predicting that the Phoenix Coyotes don’t get their act together and are forced to sell their team, and the city most looking to buy is Quebec. With this in mind, here is how I see the NHL looking come the 2012-2013 season.
First off, with a team from the east moving west (Atlanta to Winnipeg) and a team from the west moving to the east (Phoenix to Quebec City) there is no need to move any teams from one conference to another.
In the Western Conference, it doesn’t really make sense for the Jets to take the place of the Coyotes because the Yotes play in the Pacific Division and Winnipeg is far from the Pacific Ocean. I think it makes the most sense to put the Jets in the Northwest Division, which means one of those teams need to go to the Pacific Division.
The two teams I see this working for are the Vancouver Canucks and the Colorado Avalanche. I know that the Northwest is pretty much division Canada and it makes for some great rivalries for the Canucks, but the city is pretty much on the Pacific Ocean and they could develop a new rivalry with the San Jose Sharks. The option that I think is more realistic is to move the Avalanche, because they are in some way the odd man out of the Northwest Division right now. Denver is closer to Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim than it is to Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver. This option would not only cut down on travel for the Avalanche, but it would make the Northwest Division have four Canadian teams and a Minnesota Wild team that could pretty much be Canadian.
On the east side of the league the move from Phoenix to Quebec is a little more problematic because Quebec is not in the Southwest at all. It would seem most likely they would play in the Northeast Division and join the other three Canadian teams in the Eastern Conference. This would mean that Buffalo or Boston would be the odd man out, and while it would ruin the Bruins-Habs rivalry, Buffalo does not fit either the description of Southeast or Atlantic, where as Boston is on the coast.
I actually like the idea of Boston playing in the Atlantic, because it sets up rivalries with New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, which is the other major sports are already huge rivalries. In order for this to work the Penguins would have to move to the Southeast, which isn’t the most geographically true statement, but it makes the most sense. This would ruin the Pens Flyers rivalry, but I think the NHL would love to advertise six Crosby Ovechkin and six Crosby Stamkos match-ups every season.
Obviously this is all contingent on the Coyotes moving to Quebec, and even though a team is moving locations today, the NHL made pretty clear they hate doing that.
Fell free to comment below, as I know these realignments will surely tick up fans of some team out there.