It's something that probably should have been done last year, but teams and fans are getting the first look at what could be the new NHL realignment plan. As with every situation and idea, not everyone is going to be happy about it and not everyone is going to be upset. Here is the proposed realignment, courtesy of TSN.ca-
Pacific- Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, LA, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver.
Mid-West- Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg.
Central- Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto.
Atlantic- Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York (Brooklyn) Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the idea of expansion or relocation. If you look at the Eastern Conference you will see Columbus and Detroit coming to the East, who's two divisions would have 8 teams each, compared to 7 in the West. With all the relocation talk of Phoenix to a city like Quebec City, how does this all work? Would Bettman have to lean over to Columbus and Detroit and say "Sorry, guys. We should have thought of this, one of you guys have to go back to the West." Also, keep in mind, Quebec City isn't the only Eastern city believed to be getting an NHL team in the next couple years. Markham, Ontario (about 45 minutes outside of Toronto), has a proposed plan for a very nice arena. So, if by 2015 both QC and Markham get hockey teams, you would essentially kick both West teams (COL and DET) that you moved to the East out only two-three years later.
Who's happy about this realignment proposal? I don't know what you're thinking if your first answer wasn't either the Winnipeg Jets or Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have had the worst travel schedule by far over their whole existence. The Jets are happy because they are no longer flying to the state of Florida or cities like Washington or Raleigh to play divisional games. Detroit and Columbus are certainly thrilled about this since they finally get to join the West.
Why do I support this realignment? I love this realignment because we have four, Original Six teams in the Central Division (Boston, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto). I think that is absolutely great for history and definitely will be for ticket sales and ratings (too bad they couldn't throw in Chicago and New York somehow and kick two teams out). This realignment finally makes sense for teams like Winnipeg and Vancouver, who no longer have to travel absurd distances, which should add a few more wins (like Vancouver needs them) and maybe longer consistency into and through the playoffs (Vancouver). Did I mention Original Six rivalries? Detroit vs Toronto, which is now a division rivalry and also our Winter Classic game next season. Revenue, baby. Another reason I like this is because with the playoff format, will feature three top teams from each division, with 4 wild card teams, which go to two teams in each conference with the next best records. This also leads to Divisional Playoffs, not Conference, which would lead to the building of bigger, more-intense rivalries, especially in the Central, with 4 out of 6 Original Six teams. More revenue and ratings baby.
Who's not happy about this realignment? Florida, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg. Okay, first let me explain Winnipeg, because I just said they were happy. Winnipeg is thrilled to have this better travel schedule, however, they are the only Canadian team in their division. Canada teams playing Canada teams will always attract more revenue than an American vs American team, or Canada vs American (minus Buffalo, Detroit). This also means more going through customs, which is miserable at times. However, the NHL will turn their head to this issue because they brought the Jets back to Winnipeg, when they did everything in their minds to prevent that. Florida and Tampa Bay aren't happy because they have to travel the furthest of perhaps any of the teams. I always thought the Florida teams, St. Louis, Nashville, and maybe Carolina could be in a division, but, what do I know?
Why I do NOT support this realignment? As before mentioned, it still doesn't make sense for teams like Tampa Bay and Florida, it's not as harsh as Winnipeg and Vancouver had it, so you fixed two traveling problems, and created two more. Also, EXPANSION. I know Bettman will be crazy about Seattle and maybe, Portland, because he loves his American hockey teams. However, both of them won't work out, heck, one of them might not even work. The most likely expansion/relocation scenarios right now are Quebec City (which could happen as early as this off-season with Phoenix possibly relocating) and Markham, Ontario, who is putting up a long, hard-fought process. There is no doubt someday, especially if a team gets added in Markham as the 31st team, that the 32nd team will be placed in the Northwestern United States. This is a really hard-pressing issue, which is why I feel the NHLPA will want to hear what the NHL's plan is for expansion or folding clubs. They either need to expand by two teams or fold two teams, because this 30 number isn't ideal for four divisions. The NHL I'm sure has it down on the plan somewhere, but there's no way they would ever release that until a decision is actually made on moving a team, but they do have the plan for the future in their, I just want to see what it is, now.
At the end of the day, love it or hate it, everyone is going to continue watching. Some teams might be upset about the teams in the division or travel, but I'm sure over 85% of teams will accept this and be happy with it. I'm thankful Winnipeg is out of the East and Southeastern Division, I'm glad Vancouver is out of the Central Time Zone. Expansion and relocation, which are very real talks at the moment, needs to be figured out and if they have a good plan for it immediately when it happens, which could be as early as next season, because Quebec City traveling to the Southwest would be worse than any traveling any team has ever done. At first I liked it, then I wasn't sure, then I didn't like it. Now? I'm just in favour of it as long as they have their expand/fold/relocate ideas down and agreed upon, because it is going to come.