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My Not Completely Ridiculous Plan for NHL Realignment

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With National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman considering realignment for the 2012-2013 NHL season, I thought I would offer my own plan for consideration:

Western Conference

“Pacific Division”

Kings, Ducks, Sharks, Canucks, Coyotes

“Western Division”

Avalanche, Oilers, Flames, Stars, Wild

“Midwest Division”

Blues, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Blue Jackets, Maple Leafs

Eastern Conference

 “Southern Division”

Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes, Predators, Jets

“Obnoxious Division” (because the fans are mostly New Yorkers and Quebeckers)

Rangers, Islanders, Sabres, Devils, Canadiens

“Northeast Division”

Bruins, Senators, Capitals, Flyers, Penguins

Here’s why my plan is awesome:

– There are a total of seven Canadian NHL teams. My plan has at least one Canadian team per division. That way, no division will get ignored by the CBC.

– Several states/provinces have multiple teams. My plan makes it so that each of these teams will necessarily develop heated intradivision rivalries with each other. (California has three teams, all in the Pacific Division; Alberta has two teams, both in the Western Division; Florida has two teams, both in the Southern Division; Pennsylvania has two teams, both in the Northeast Division; New York has four teams—well, if you include the Devils, and I do—and they are all in the Obnoxious Division.) The only exception to this rule is Ontario, with the Senators and Maple Leafs playing in different divisions. But this is necessary so that every division has at least one Canadian team. Also, Ottawa is the capital of Canada, and Washington is the capital of the United States, and they are placed together in the Northeast Division for the sake of international rivalry (and/or jingoistic hatred).

– Geographically, it makes more sense than the current alignment. It’s not perfect (with the Jets squad in the Southern Division), but it’s still an improvement. (And yes, I’m aware that a major reason for the proposed realignment in the first place was the Atlanta Thrashers moving to Winnipeg to become the Jets, thereby making the NHL’s current “Southeast Division” look like a ridiculous misnomer. So? Winnipeg is kinda to the south…for Canada.) 

– Seriously, you just know this plan is gonna look good compared to whatever shit sandwich Bettman eventually comes up with.

Please offer your opinions/suggestions/crude personal insults in the comments section!

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About RJ

  • Steve

    I like breaking up the Canadian division and would also like to see the state teams split for the same reason the Canadian teams are split.

  • RJ


    Thanks for commenting.

    I actually thought about that as I was writing this piece. In MLB, the Mets/Yankees, Dodgers/Angels, Cubs/White Sox, etc. play in different leagues. In the NFL, the Jets/Giants, Raiders/49ers, etc. play in different conferences.

    But the NHL is more like the NBA, in that the conferences are divided into “Western” and “Eastern.” So it’s geographical. And you can’t really have teams in the same city playing in different conferences if you base the conferences on geographical location. You know, the Lakers and Clippers are in the same conference, as are the Nets and Knicks, etc.

  • RJ

    Now that I think about it some more, here’s an alternative proposal:

    “Obnoxious Division”
    Rangers, Islanders, Sabres, BRUINS, Canadiens

    “Northeast Division”
    DEVILS, Senators, Capitals, Flyers, Penguins

    I switched Boston and New Jersey. In the process, I created a better rivalry between the Bruins and the Rangers (Boston vs. New York; also, two of the Original Six teams).

    Massholes are just as obnoxious as New Yorkers and Quebeckers. So no problem there.

    Geographically it even makes more sense, so long as you suspend your disbelief and pretend that Newark is closer to Philly than it is to NYC.

  • Trendon

    First of all, any realignment that has Winnipeg in the south is completely wrong.

    You can’t split up New Jersey and Philadelphia. Buffalo is further away from the three NY area teams than Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, and even Pittsburgh. Even Montreal is closer.

  • Pick

    You have the Jets in the Southern division because they’re in the south of Canada. But, Toronto is actually more south. Besides, this makes more geographic sense (switch Winnipeg and Toronto). I agree with you about the whole ignoring of divisions in Canada. We never hear about the pacific division these days.

  • NHL2K12

    The entire point of the realignment is to move the Jets to the West for travel purposes. Detroit will come back to the East, they’ve been petitioning for that for a while, since they basically are more central/east than west anyway, and would prefer the easy travel schedule.

    Don’t expect to see much movement beyond that and maybe one other swap. Then another move perhaps when Les Nordique are back in the league (aka when Phoenix or Florida finally accept reality).

  • Mark

    Not bad. I think Toronto should switch with Ottawa and I have a hard time with The Flyers not being in the same division as the Rangers, Devils and Islanders as I am so used to the rivalry. Still, I like the thought behind this. Thanks for sharing.

  • RJ

    Quite frankly, as a Red Wings fan, I would prefer them to play in the Eastern Conference as well. But there simply aren’t enough NHL franchises located in the geographical “west” to fill up the entire Western Conference (15 teams), so inevitably some teams that are geographically in the “east” will be placed in the Western Conference. And I figure it would be pretty badass for Detroit to be playing in the same division as fellow Original Six teams Toronto and Chicago, even if they were to remain located in the Western Conference.

  • DB

    Toronto in the West? Most of their road games would be at 10pm local time.

  • RJ


    Yeah, that’s true, but Detroit and Columbus have been dealing with that for a while now.

  • RJ

    I encourage everyone to take a look at a map with the locations of NHL franchises on it. There are only 12 teams west of the Mississippi River. You need 15 teams in a conference if they are to be of equal size. You could add Chicago and Nashville to the Western Conference, as both of those cities are located in the Central Time Zone. But that only gives you 14 teams. So if you are aiming for 15 teams per conference, you still gotta add another one. But who? Detroit? Columbus? Pittsburgh? Tampa Bay? There doesn’t seem to be an obvious choice, if you are going to go that route.

    Of course, it’s entirely possible that Bettman will “solve” this problem by having 14 teams in the Western Conference and 16 teams in the Eastern Conference. So you get the 12 teams west of the Mississippi plus Chicago and Nashville in the Western Conference, and the remaining 16 teams in the Eastern Conference. But that would give teams in the Western Conference an unfair advantage during the regular season, since they would have a better chance of making the playoffs than teams in the Eastern Conference. (8 playoff teams out of 14 total in the West = 57%; 8 playoff teams out of 16 total in the East = 50%.)

    That’s something that drives me nuts about MLB, incidentally. The AL has 14 teams. The NL has 16 teams. The AL West has just 4 teams. The NL Central has 6 teams. How exactly is that fair? More competition for a division title equals a more difficult time winning the division equals a lower likelihood of making the playoffs. Teams in the AL West are at a huge advantage over teams in the NL Central.

  • Charlie Doherty

    Regarding #3: And us “massholes” will be even more obnoxious now that the Bruins are the champs!

  • RJ


    Heh. I envy Boston fans. Good hockey team. Good football team. Good basketball team. Good baseball team.

    Detroit fans have (at present) a shit basketball team, a poor (but improving!) football team, a good hockey team, and an above-average-but-not-great baseball team.

    Boston > Detroit :-/

  • Charlie Doherty

    Regarding #11: I agree that it’s not fair the way MLB has its divisions split up. Bud Selig is looking at slightly realigning the league now.

    Maybe moving the Houston Astros to the AL (which is a legitimate rumor) would solve the unfairness of the AL West division being only four teams deep (and would create a new and interesting interstate divisional rivalry between the Astros and Texas Rangers, thereby matching the NL West divisional rivalry between the SF Giants and LA Dodgers).

  • RJ

    14: 100% agreed.

  • Jay

    I like the breakdown and agree with getting those rivalries going. However, if you’re going to have an “Obnoxious” division due to the New York fans (like me), than you have to have the “Criminal” division for the Canadian teams (i.e. the Vancouver riots)!

  • Ghoulie Mask

    No offense, but this is terrible for many reasons. Look at your proposed North East and Atlantic divisions. Take a good look. Not only is it obnoxious because you rips them all apart almost for the sake of ripping them apart and wrecks existing rivalries (including the most legendary rivalry in the entire NHL, Habs-Bruins), it also makes almost zero sense geographically. Your proposed “North East” division is a silly spider web built geographically around your Atlantic division. Ottawa and Boston over it, Philly, Pitt and Wash below it. You doesn’t even do the slightly less absurd thing and switch Montreal with Ottawa … Montreal is almost due north of Boston (well, slightly over central Mass, but still, the most Eastern Canadian franchise currently until Quebec City gets a team back), Ottawa is over north of central New York. And for crying out loud, Pitt is over to the western side of Pennsylvania … why in the world would you put it in a Division with Boston, which is almost a straight line directly THROUGH the greater New York area? You wouldn’t because that is a terrible realignment plan.

    And your idea that putting Ottawa and Washington in the same division would create some sort of international rivalry because they are both national capitals? That’s ridiculous.

    Moving one or even 2 teams out of a division is plausible and may have to happen. Moving one big fish into a more sensible division may happen. Trying to have at least one Canadian team per division is admirable. But wholesale chopping up and scrambling division, especially the more entrenched and established divisions, with almost a perfectly balanced disregard for tradition AND geography is an exercise in dumb. Sorry!

  • Ken

    Dallas with Edmonton and Calgary? Winnipeg with Florida? How is this not ridiculous?

  • Chris

    I think it is unlikely the NHL would move the cash cow Maple Leafs out of the eastern conference. And I don’t even think they would move them out of the division that includes Montreal and Boston.

  • Adam

    Canucks, Ducks, Coyotes, Flames, Stars
    Oilers, Kings, Sharks, Avs, Jets
    Wild, Blackhawks, Wings, Leafs, Jackets
    Panthers, Lightning, Hurricanes, Pred, Blues
    Sabres, Pens, Sens, Caps, Devils
    Canadiens, Bruins, Islanders, Flyers Rangers

  • bobbo

    Put the Blues in the South and the Jets in the Midwest

  • Erik

    Seperating rivals such as Boston and Montreal would be a huge mistake! Maybe you should create the Original six division and see those teams go at it!

  • Ian

    Why not do it this way…a Canadian division!!!

    North: Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver
    South: Tampa, Florida, Dallas, Carolina, Nashville, Washington, Columbus
    West: San Jose, LA, Anaheim, Colorado, Minnesota, St Louis, Chicago, Phoenix
    East: Boston, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, NJ, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit

  • Tom from the bay

    1: Kings, Ducks, Sharks, Canucks, Avalanche
    2: Oilers, Flames, Stars, Blue Jackets, Predators
    3: Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Sabres, Maple Leafs
    4: Blues, Red Wings, Blackhawks, Wild, Jets
    5: Penguins, Flyers, Bruins, Canadiens, Senators
    6: Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes, Coyotes*, Capitals