A Look at NHL Realignment, Eastern Conference
The NHL Board of Governors votes today on the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg. In all likelihood that measure will pass. That makes this second part of my NHL realignment plan pretty nicely timed. If you missed part one (which focused on the Western Conference), you can check it out here.
There are three “themes” that I focused on when reconsidering the NHL realignment. The first theme is rivalries. I made an effort so far to keep the historically intra-divisional rivalries intact. It’s good for life-long fans, it’s good for new and casual fans—everybody wins. And it leads me to my second theme.
The second theme is revenue. At the end of the day the NHL is a business. Rivalries are good for business. But there are certain teams (e.g. the Columbus Blue Jackets) that I feel would fare better in a division with a different big market team. Teams like the Blue Jackets need a change of pace (without having to be physically relocated), being featured with a new set of clubs and an opportunity to form new rivalries. Remember, rivalries are good for business.
Finally, I focused on location. This was much easier out west, where team locations are more sporadic. But when you get out east—well, see for yourself.*
So again, things in the east weren’t so easy to figure out. I did my best to avoid change; I didn’t want to make it more difficult on myself than I had to. Also keeping in mind the previously-mentioned themes, I came up with the following.
Wales Division (Formerly known as the Southeast Division)
Teams: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals
What’s changed: Columbus Blue Jackets is in; Atlanta Thrashers is out.
The Washington Capitals is a big market team. The Tampa Bay Lightning is a rejuvenated team. The Carolina Hurricanes were host to last year’s All-Star Game amidst much fanfare. The former Southeast division has been garnering much attention lately, making it the perfect place for the Blue Jackets, a team which reportedly lost $25M in revenue last season.
Patrick Division (Formerly known as the Atlantic Division)
Teams: New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins
What’s changed: Nothing has changed.
Rivalries, rivalries, rivalries: that is the name of the game in the former Atlantic division. Penguins and Flyers, Flyers and Devils, Devils and Rangers, Rangers and Islanders; the division is almost literally connected completely by rivalry. In fact, if you look back at the Penguins-Islanders saga from last season one could even say that it is fully connected by rivalry. There is nothing to change here.
And if that isn’t good enough for you, consider this: the Penguins, Flyers, and Rangers are three of the league’s highest revenue-generating teams. If that doesn’t spell success for a division, I don’t know what does.
Adams Division (formerly known as the Northeast Division)
Teams: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs
What’s changed: Nothing has changed.
Once again I settled on keeping the former Northeast division as it were. You can thank the process of elimination for that. But keeping this division intact is also a smart move for other reasons. The historic rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins should never be meddled with under any circumstances. It is arguably the greatest rivalry in the sport, and it brings lots of attention to the division as a whole.
Buffalo has excellent (and underrated) attendance. Boston is another big market team. The Montreal Canadiens are about as successful as NHL franchises can get in terms of revenue and a supportive fan base. Again, it’s best to just leave well enough alone.
*All maps are courtesy of Google Maps and Icethetics.info | Click for larger image