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Thinking realignment - 06-27-11

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

One of the more intriguing pieces of news to come out of the draft weekend was that the NHL is seriously considering scrapping its six-division format and lumping everyone into four big divisions. Two would have eight teams while the other two would have seven.

Additionally, the divisions would be based heavily on time zones.

With that in mind, here are the divisions we would propose:

(Click here for a larger version of the graphic.)

-Pardon the bland red "X" for the Jets. Our Microsoft Paint skills are limited.

-Assuming your a Penguins fan, the biggest thing that stand out there is the idea of grouping Pittsburgh in a division with Sunbelt teams. While the idea of the Panthers and Penguins being division rivals might seem foreign or unnatural, it's hardly unprecedented. The Penguins used to be in the Norris Division with the Canadiens, Whalers, Red Wings and the Kings.

-Under this proposal, the Penguins would maintain their intense rivalries with the Flyers and Capitals. If anything, their rivalry with the Capitals under this set-up would get even hotter with the potential for a division title on the line.

-If you suspect the Penguins' long-standing rivalries with former Patrick Division foes such as the Devils, Islanders or Rangers would suffer from being in different divisions, we would point out that the Penguins and Capitals are still fierce rivals today despite competing in different divisions.

-Additionally, lumping the Penguins and Capitals with teams like the Panthers and Blue Jackets would benefit ticket sales for those teams. Markets like Buffalo, Montreal and Toronto will routinely sell out regardless of the opponent.

-The Red Wings, Blue Jackets and Predators have each pushed the league for a move to the Eastern Conference for a variety of reasons. Mostly, it would cut down on travel and boost local television ratings with fewer late-night games on the West coast. Each team has a case, but the Blue Jackets need it the most. With a relatively younger expansion franchise still trying to establish itself in its market, having upwards of 16 games a season start at 9 p.m. or later on Eastern Time is brutal with regards to television ratings.

-The Red Wings have just as big of a case to move to the Eastern Conference, but playing all those late night games for almost 30 years hasn't exactly hurt "Hockeytown." The Red Wings are one of the most recognizable brands in the sport and are routinely one of the biggest draws in terms of television ratings in the United States. They can afford to stay in the Western Conference much more than the Blue Jackets.

-The Predators are a young franchise in a newer market just like the Blue Jackets, but they're in the central time zone. Their West Coast games start at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Central Time. It's not an ideal situation, but it's not nearly as bad as what the Blue Jackets have to contend with.

-Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson told Craig Custance of The Sporting News he hopes the NHL would be open to having 16 teams in the Eastern Conference with only 14 in the Western Conference. We simply don't see how that could happen from a competitive balance standpoint. It would make reaching the postseason immensely easier for a Western Conference team.

-Scheduling might be the biggest puzzle. Currently, you play

Division foes - 6 games each (24 total)
Non-division conference foes - 4 games each (40 total)
Non-conference foes - at least 1 game each (15 total)
"Wild card" games for home-and-home series with non-conference foes - 3 games each.

-With two divisions with eight teams, would playing everyone in your division six time present any sort of competitive advantage or disadvantage to the division with just seven teams?

-Could you play each team in your conference four times regardless of division? That would account for 56 of your 82 games. Assuming your played all 15 teams in the other conference at least once, that would give you 71 games. Could those remaining nine games be used as "wild card" games for home-and-home series with teams from the other conference?

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