Published on February 24th, 2013 | by James Conley0
NHL Realignment Taking Shape, Penguins’ Division Still Familiar
When NHL realignment was quickly shut down by the NHLPA in 2011, it was the first of a series of belligerent moves that began to place the chess pieces for what would be a four-month long NHL lockout.
Realignment talks are now moving again, and without the brinkmanship of a coming lockout, things are moving along rather smoothly. CBC’s Elliotte Friedman gave a look at NHL realignment and the proposed conferences in the works, a plan which includes a 16-team Eastern Conference and 14-team Western Conference.
The divisions could look as follows:
With the conferences skewered 16-14 in the East, talks of NHL expansion begin to look more likely. It’s no secret that the NHL would like to add new franchises at every turn—especially when the expansion fees could result in one-time payments to the league of $200-plus million.
The NFL can carry a 32-team league. It’s easy to imagine the NHL would like to move into that territory, and given viable but unoccupied northern markets in Seattle, Quebec City and Southern Ontario, another phase of NHL expansion would seem to make much more sense than the ill-conceived 1990′s expansion that took teams in Winnipeg, Quebec and Hartford and pushed them into nontraditional sunbelt markets.
For Pittsburgh, the proposed realignment would see the entire Atlantic Division stick together with the additions of Southeast foes Washington and Carolina and West-to-East transport Columbus.
Washington is a former division rival of the Penguins, and Carolina has some history with the Penguins given their smash trade at the 2012 NHL draft and 2009 Eastern Conference Finals series. Columbus, too, would give Penguins the geographical rivalry that has such a large presence in the NFL but is lacking in the current NHL format.
Playoff seeding would be a monster of its own, and could change again once the NHL gets itself to 32 teams. (And let’s be serious. The NHL will have 32 teams before this current CBA plays itself out.)
For the Penguins, the additions of Washington and Carolina to their division as well as the additions of Detroit and Columbus to the Eastern Conference look to make the new conference layouts even more exciting.