Realignment has come up lately, but this time it wasn’t an NHL proposal. No, it came from our friend Slack who’s part of the ever-growing SinBin infantry. Slack broke down his proposal for Western Conference realignment in response to my ‘Fear Edmonton‘ article. With the new Seattle arena news, Slack proposed his changes for the NHL Pacific and Central divisions.
Slack’s realignment model:
PACIFIC: Vancouver, Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Las Vegas, Arizona, Dallas
CENTRAL: Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, Colorado
So let’s start with the Pacific. You obviously cannot split up Anaheim, LA, and San Jose. First, it’s the perfect travel triangle for divisional play. If you look at the Metropolitan, most teams could travel by bus to most divisional games. The Rangers, Islanders, and Devils all get to go home after they play each other. So breaking up the California three is not an option. Vancouver is as west as you can get, it wouldn’t make sense for the Canucks to consistently travel to the Midwest. Also, with the possible addition of a Seattle franchise it would set up nicely for a border rivalry. Arizona is a team that could move, but the NHL would like to see a Southwestern rivalry with the Knights.
Next, Slack really beefs up the Pacific by adding the Dallas Stars. Without a doubt one of the leagues most talented teams, the Stars could benefit from Slack’s realignment. Unfortunately, Las Vegas wouldn’t want to play the Stars five times a season. If Dallas got a real goaltender they could sleep through the regular season.
Slack’s Central division really gets exciting, and could be the best in hockey. The main core of Chicago, St.Louis, Nashville, Colorado, and Minnesota are in tact. Winnipeg remains in the Central, but not as the only Canadian team. Slack stacks up the rivalries up north by adding the Flames and the scorching hot Oilers (which is funny when it’s in the same sentence as the word Flames, get it hot, flame, oil). By joining Winnipeg in the Central, it would create a massive Canadian battleground. The travel could be rough on Calgary and Edmonton, but the NHL will love the divisional games between the Jets, Flames, and Oilers. Even though Vancouver will be lost in the shuffle, it doesn’t need the help of a Canadian rivalry like the Jets could. Plus, Seattle and Vancouver will hate each other sooner than later, if they add that 32nd team. Besides the long travel for the western Canadian cities, Slack’s Central will remain one of the NHL’s best division.
As you can see, the NHL could benefit from a guy like Slack. He’s got it all figured out, but how will Las Vegas perform under Slack’s new Western Conference? In one sense, losing Edmonton to the Central could be beneficial for the Knights. Because let’s be serious, this team is for real. The Knights would be happy, for a few reasons, not traveling to Edmonton three times a year. Adding Dallas on the other hand, could be more fun but with little success.
Now I’m not counting out Las Vegas already, but Dallas and Edmonton have brighter futures on paper. It’s essentially, pick your poison for Las Vegas… and Anaheim, LA, Arizona, San Jose, and Vancouver. The Stars and Oilers are two skilled teams with a young, core talent. Something Cup winners have. The Blackhawks are the perfect example. If Las Vegas can build a roster like Chicago did, then who cares about Edmonton or Dallas. The only victories for visiting teams will be up in Pahrump. Bada Bing!
I saw these when Slack commented and I agreed with everything but the Dallas/Colorado placement. Dallas is in the Central time zone, which puts them two hours ahead of every team but Arizona (and even them in the Spring since those crazy Arizonans don’t change their time zone). So they would be playing 25-30 games a year with start times on TV at 9pm or later. Ol’ GB won’t let that happen, so with respect to everything else, I would see Colorado (Mountain time) being added to the Pacific lineup Slack proposed instead of Dallas, who would stay in the Central. This keeps games only an hour difference max for start times in both conferences and the overall travel slightly shorter in both cases. Either way, though, its definitely cool to think about either of those options.
I like the rivalries this sets up, but even with the free pass to the Western Conference Final the Stars would enjoy for a few years, Dallas hated being in the old Pacific Division as the only team located in the Central Time Zone and would probably object to this proposal. If you swapped the Stars for Colorado, this proposal could work, but even then there’s lots of travel mileage between Edmonton/Calgary and Dallas. I don’t know how important the NHL will see a Knights/Coyotes rivalry, so I see Arizona getting moved to the Central Division if Seattle gets a team.
The commissioner is desperate to get a team in Seattle. I completely understand it, but knows QC will support whatever they get. The league is unquestionably looking for another $500M AND expanding the TV footprint. A team in Seattle is what Bettman was keeping LV waiting so long, and really the reason why they only “gave”. LV a team. Especially if they can get a team there before Sonics II happen. Maybe he knew the latest arena things in Seattle were going to happen. Maybe not. Geographically it is a perfect fit, especially since Detroit is never going back to the West, even though folks speculate that from time to time.
Eventually Carolina will have to “s**t or get off the pot”. That (not the Islanders) is the team that is likely to move. If one moves at all. League (more specifically, cry baby Bruins owner, Jeremy Jacobs) would love to have a team in Houston, but for some reason the Rockets owner is deathly afraid of an NHL team using his building and has said he will not allow the league in his building. It is why I thought that there could have possibly been four added teams, but Seattle’s politics made that not possible. A team in Seattle & Houston (&QC) would make the league as big in terms of cities as it could get, for the foreseeable future. 34 would be weird number, but so what?
34 may be a weird number but I bet they’d love having 33 teams.