Realignment 2012 is happening. The board of Governors along with the GM's announced publicly that realignment would be sorted out before the new year and that those changes would be put into effect at the start of the 2012-2013 season. That's all fine and dandy... except for the fact that we have no clue which team will end up in which conference/division come next season. Actually that's a big lie: over the past few weeks the NHL GM's, coaches, players, and fans have all made there voices heard in terms of where in the league they want to play. There certainly are some favourites whose names keep popping up on the "I want out" list.
Why is the league Realigning?
To better understand whats happening, let's get to the root of the problem: The Winnipeg Jets. I'm as happy as any canadian to have a 7th team in canada no matter where it is (meh, I could do without a team in hamilton) but it's no secret to the rest of the league that their existence means having to shuffle around the division/conference puzzle pieces. Why? well, plainly put, they aren't anywhere close to where they need to play. The former Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) are to remain in the same conference and division that they were in last (2010-2011) season: Eastern Conference, Southeast Division. When the Jets moved to Winnipeg, the plan drawn up by the NHL brass was always "relocate now, realign later" so unfortunately the Jets still have one more season in the southeast division (Albeit with a different name-tag). For those who didn't pay attention in 10th grade geography, Winnipeg, which is just north of North Dakota, will have to criss-cross the continent (Washington, Tampa, Florida, Carolina) just to play their division road games. Things will start getting pretty gruelling for the poor Jets especially during stretches of home-away-home-away division contests. Not only does this take a toll on the Jets but it also has the potential to wear down the other teams in the Southeast division who have to deal with playing a team that is both in another country and another time zone.
Realignment: What are the Options?
As realignment stands right now, there are a handful of rumoured solutions to the current Winnipeg situation floating around the league. It is almost universally accepted that the Winnipeg Jets will move out of the eastern conference and will join the western conference (where the geographically belong) so as to get rid of their frequent-flier problem. After that, the scenarios begin to get a bit more complicated.
1) Winnipeg: Southeast->Northwest; Colorado Avalanche: Northwest->Pacific; Dallas Stars: Pacific->Central; Detroit Redwings: Central-> Southeast.
Now it's not clear as to whether or not the Redwings would stay in the Southeast once their move to the eastern conference is complete, but the idea is there. Winnipeg joins its western Canadian comrades (and Minnesota) in the Northwest for proximity issues, the Avs join the Pacific division, allowing Dallas to move into the Central division (which the Stars have asked for on account of time-zone differences with the rest of the Pacific Division). After that, the Redwings, who have begged for a move back to the east for the sake of tradition (and potential income due to old rivalries) will then take Winnipeg's spot in the Southeast Division. Don't expect detroit to stay there, though, as they are much closer to the Atlantic and Northwest divisions than they are to the Southeast.
2) Winnipeg: Southeast->Northwest; Toronto; Northeast->Northwest; Colorado: Northwest->Pacific; Dallas: Pacific->Central; Minnesota: Northwest->Central; Detroit: Central->Northeast; Columbus/Nashville: Central->Southeast.
That clear's up the whole Detroit-Southeast problem, but new one's arise. In this scenario, the Northwest turns into an all canadian division featuring Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. Of course, the obvious problem with that is the fact that Toronto and Vancouver are about the same distance away from each other as Winnipeg and Miami. Put simply, same problem, different conference. However, the proximity issue for the southeastern division is solved by the move of either Columbus or Nashville to said conference.
3) Winnipeg: Southeast->Northeast; Vancouver: Northeast->Pacific; Dallas; Pacific->Central; Detroit/Nashville/Columbus: Central->Southeast.
Although this is not one of the more popularly rumoured potential fixes, this realignment makes perhaps the most geographical sense out of all. A northwest division without Vancouver means that the Wild and Avalanche (and Jets for that matter) don't have to cross the rockies just to play Roberto LOL-ongo and the Canucks. In addition, Vancouver playing in the Pacific division means all teams in the division are on the same timezone. From there, it's pretty much the same: Dallas moves to the central division for timezone purposes and one of the central teams moves to the southeast.
Wait a minute...
There are a few "if's" to consider before realignment actually happens. For starters, the Phoenix Coyotes are once again in a bit of a fiscal/ownership bind, meaning that if their financial situation is not up to standard come the end of the 2012 season, they might very well be on the move to a new location (for reals this time...?). Where that new location is isn't exactly certain although the frontrunner appears to be Quebec City, former home of the Quebec Nordiques, that has just agreed to build an NHL ready arena for the 2015 season. Regardless of when/where/if the coyotes move, the league will have to re-evaluate their entire realignment plan to accommodate them too.
As if one potential move wasn't enough, there is another NHL team that has been rumoured for a potential move: The NY Islanders. Having failed to secure funding for a new, state of the art stadium, the Islanders have foud themselves in a perpetual state of mediocre players and lacklustre fan support. If this continues unchanged, don't be surprised to the Isles find a new home somewhere else (Quebec, Hamilton, Kansas City, and Las Vegas have all been mentioned).
To wrap up, the NHL certainly has their work cut out for them over these next few months and although there are a great many unknowns at this point, one thing remains certain: No matter what team goes where, and no matter how far away teams may be from each other, the Maple Leafs STILL will not make the playoffs![img][/img]