Last week everyone was surprised by the NHLPA’s plan to put the kaibosh on realignment for the 2012-13 season. Many are casting this as a doom and gloom for another lost season, but I just don’t think that’s the case. There is way too much money on the table, for all sides, to risk losing so much time again.
I am of the opinion that the NHL will be realigned in some way next season. It’s ridiculous to have Winnipeg be in the Southeast Division for one more year. However, there is one more ball that needs to drop before they can commit to a new plan, the $25 million (a year) question. Who will own the Phoenix Coyotes and where will they play?
After a failed attempt to completely blow up the league, the NHL still could do some sort of a change. I think that they are waiting until the Phoenix mess sorts itself out, so they don’t need to do something awkward like moving Columbus to the Southeast Division only to have to change them back a year or two later, and after they’ve moved all the way up to 13th in the Conference!
Apparently the front-runners for a Coyotes new home are Kansas City, Seattle, Las Vegas, Quebec City, or Somewhere in Southern Ontario.
Should the Coyotes make the move, it gives a convenient way to make some sort of a swap. I mean Kansas City is only slightly more Pacific than Dallas is, and nobody would be stupid enough to have them in that division, right?
In this post, I’ll look at what the NHL could look like if Phoenix moves to either Seattle, with more posts coming later on this week with a focus on each other location for the ‘Yotes. I’ll try to keep some geographic sense, and preserve traditional rivalries as best as possible.
THE SEATTLE COYOTES
This to me is the most likely scenario, especially after Bill Daly went so far as to publicly state “there is a group interested in bringing hockey to the Seattle area” last July, with rumours ramping up this past December. The Pacific Northwest is a massively untapped hockey market, and I am kind of surprised that Seattle or Portland weren’t considered more thoroughly in the last round of expansion that brought such A-list cities as Nashville and Columbus to the dance.
Obviously, moving a team in Seattle could stay in the Pacific Division with little to no problem. So everything stays the same, right? Well not so fast here. Dallas, with it’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico (and therefore Atlantic Ocean) has no business playing in the Pacific Division. They just got a new owner, who I could see Bettman trying to please with a shift of division where they don’t have to start a majority of their games starting at 10 local time.
So who takes Dallas’s place in the Pacific Division? Well, Canadian fans won’t be happy but I think that the Vancouver Canucks are the team to make the move, especially with a team in Seattle, creating a nice cross-border rivalry in the same vein as Toronto-Buffalo or Minnesota-Winnipeg. Plus, all five teams would be in the Pacific Division, and Vancouver is almost 300km closer to Anaheim than they are to Winnipeg.
In short, things would look like this.
I have Columbus moving East but it doesn’t make much of a difference if Nashville goes instead from this alignment. I think that Columbus’s struggle off-ice makes them a stronger contender to move. The last thing that Gary Bettman wants is another of the teams to come in during his watch to move. So if moving Columbus East lessens the financial hemorrhaging that’s going on in Ohio, then so be it. Of course, Columbus would want to go to either the Northeast Division or more likely the Atlantic Division, but I doubt that’s going to happen. If they go to the Northeast Division, then it starts a domino effect that no doubt pushes the Bruins to the Atlantic, and the Flyers or Penguins to the Southeast, which I think will be pretty unlikely to happen. So the Southeast it is for them, even if Central Ohio is neither South, not East in the grand scheme of things.
In this map I was able to get Dallas to the Central Division where they belong at the expense of Minnesota who would also like to join Detroit and Chicago. But Vancouver swapping out for nearby Winnipeg is sure to be a good thing for fans in the Twin Cities. However, if pleasing the Minnesota Wild is important, and so is keeping all the Western Canadian teams in the same division, we could get something like….
I much prefer the first option now that I look at it. Lumping Seattle in with four Canadian teams would not bode well for building a fan base. Although I guess Dallas would be slightly appeased with the addition of Colorado to their division, since they are only one Time Zone away, unlike the rest of their division.
Although there is a third sort of hybrid option here that could look like this…
This would have the Avalanche moving out of the Northwest, where they probably don’t belong, and same for the Stars, who really are a Central Team. The big losers here would be Minnesota. But they would at least get the nearby rival in Winnipeg, a team that they actually share a Time Zone with, so baby steps here I suppose.
Personally I prefer Option #1, due to it’s focus on Time Zones, but I think that Option #3 would be the most likely. I think that the NHL will do a small change for next year with a full scale blow up the league approach later in a few years.
Which just for a reminder gets us this:
PACIFIC: Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Vancouver, Seattle
NORTHWEST: Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Colorado
CENTRAL: Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas
NORTHEAST: Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Montreal, Boston
ATLANTIC: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders
SOUTHEAST: Washington, Columbus, Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay
Or what the hell, we could leave the Jets in the Southeast, because that makes so much sense, doesn’t it?
This approach could work just as well if the team moves to Portland, which would be more or less the same, although it would be less urgent to get them in the same division as Vancouver. Of course, I wouldn’t expect a team in Portland or Seattle to be called they Coyotes. They would probably come up with some new fun names like the Rosebuds or Metropolitans. Because dead franchises make great names upon their triumphant return, don’t they?