I think that most, if not all, people with any sense whatsoever will agree that realignment needed to happen in some way, shape or form. If nothing else, at least make it more equitable for poor Winnipeg with travel considerations. The proposed form sent in a memo by the NHL to its teams Tuesday puts the league in this type of setup:
Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
The reconfiguration is slightly different than the one proposed in 2011, but does address a couple of things (moving DET and CBJ with their Eastern Time Zone brethren and getting WPG out of that Southeast Division mess).
The schedule matrix would look like this to get to 82 games:
Eastern Conference team:
3x against other East teams in opposite division (24 games)
4x or 5x against division opponents (total of 30 games) on rotating basis
2x against West teams (28 games)
Western Conference team:
3x against other West teams in opposite division (21 games)
4x or 5x against division opponents (total of 29 games) on rotating basis
2x against East teams (32 games)
With the League's proposal of a wild-card system to alleviate concerns over the system's inequities, it answers one of the glaring questions, but there are still a couple of things wrong with the proposed groupings. (FWIW, I like the idea of divisional playoffs and the rivalries it will foster - seven games like Monday's tilt with Dallas sounds good to me.)
I understand the want of the big-drawing teams in the Mid-Atlantic (PIT, PHI, NYR, et al.) to stay together, but they also need to remember that the Original Six group was eventually broken up through expansion. Suck it up, fellas. Change happens.
This "Central Division" nonsense is a farce. Exactly one team fits the description of a "Central" team - Detroit. A second, Toronto, is close in proximity, but who really thinks of the Maple Leafs as a Central Division team? (Put your hands down and quit lying.) The rest are either Northeast or Southeast locations and have no business being in a "Central" Division, because, let's face it - they're not central to anything.
There's not an easy way to take the current 30 teams and group them into four divisions with as much equity as possible - the numbers just don't work out right in any way, shape or form. Someone's going to get the short straw in travel mileage (or time zone travel) for the forseeable future.
My main concerns of the new alignment (from a Nashville standpoint):
1. Until the Phoenix situation is resolved, this thing is fluid and will necessitate a tweak here or there within the next three years.
2. Expansion's coming - like it or not. I'd say Seattle is almost a lock to get one, which is good. The other one ideally would be in Kansas City, but that looks pretty bleak now. Any expansion in the Eastern Time Zone causes more of a mess than this realignment solves. The idea of expansion itself does not concern me, by the way - it's where it could take place that has me thinking it might not help.
3. What will happen with the scheduling? Hopefully the "quick-hit" one-and-back road trips won't include Winnipeg, but being in the same division, that concern will probably fall on deaf ears. Maybe the league will put them with the Western Canada swing, and the Eastern Canada trip that will inevitably come out of this (with each team playing everybody else at least twice, it will help).
And a couple of other points (not necessarily concerns, just my views):
1. I'm okay with losing Detroit and Columbus as division opponents. We don't necessarily need Detroit to sell out the building anymore, as evidenced by the current sellout streak. Again, more games with Dallas might be a good thing, same with Minnesota. Besides, Chicago and St. Louis are still in the backyard to scuffle with if anyone is worried about rivalries.
2. The team who should be griping more is Colorado. They'll have to go at least one time zone east for more games than anyone (30 or 31), being a time zone behind all of its division opponents instead of an hour ahead. They're better off in the Pacific Division, where that number will be cut by at least four (26 or 27 for those teams). Winnipeg can't gripe - they chose to move there and they're getting in the right division, so the frequent flier miles are theirs for the taking.
Overall, for the Preds, I'm okay with the realignment proposal. It's not ideal (being in the current Southeast would be ideal to fix the mess, but hey, that's not happening, so I'll deal), but it could make for some interesting prospects next season.
What do you think? Fire away in the comments section.