The little bit of chatter I got regarding the lack of realignment talk during the CBA battle got me thinking heavily on the topic again. While I liked the NHL's plan, some Panther fans did not care for the increased travel aspect. Is there something that works better for the Panthers while keeping the advantages gained for most of the other league members? A poll and more after the jump...
After looking at the NHL's plan again I made some tweaks to keep the Panthers in the US as much as possible. Considerations were made to keep as many rivals together as possible as well as bringing back some old rivalries that should be and to allow for general travel reduction for most teams. Not to pat myself on the back or anything but I don't recall any seeing something quite like this (for better or worse) thrown out there before. I like to call this the "tilted map" approach.
Western Conference: Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche (same as NHL's proposed Conference A) no changes here - this is the only thing that works out west
Atlantic Conference: Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins This is practically the same thing as the NHL's proposed Conference D and keeps together all the rivalries that forced the NHL to put the Cats and Bolts with the eastern Canadian teams in their proposal. Carolina has been subtracted to stay with Florida and Tampa Bay while Montreal and Boston have been added to make this an eight team Conference that looks amazing to my eyes..
Here's where I make some serious changes and mix up proposed Conferences B and C into something that I think looks pretty good especially for the Florida teams.
Great Lakes Conference: Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators This new conference keeps Chicago and Detroit together (which is a must for the both teams and the NHL) while adding fellow original sixer Toronto as a rival. Winnipeg and Minnesota no longer have to travel far south to play Dallas or Nashville, St. Louis and Columbus for that matter. Instead they travel east to face their new rivals. Ottawa keeps Canadian rival Toronto while gaining Winnipeg. Buffalo stays with Toronto and gains Chicago and Detroit in place of Boston and Montreal. A lot to like here rivalry and travel-wise, everyone should be pretty happy with this.
South/Central Conference: Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes, St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets This one might look strange at first but let it digest and looking long and hard at a map might not hurt either. The Panthers and Lightning are no longer strangely lumped together with a bunch of Canadian teams and have regained Carolina. Dallas still has to travel a lot but they are simply going east instead of far west as they currently do or north to play teams like Winnipeg and Minnesota if the NHL got their way. Sure, St. Louis, Nashville and Columbus now have to travel to Florida but they stay together amongst themselves and Carolina isn't really that far away. This might look like the NHL's leftovers thrown together (and it is to some extent) but the teams are all US based and aren't really located that far away from each other as a whole. Everyone has at least 3 teams relatively close by. I know there are some time zone issues with this conference so perhaps the three teams in the Central Time Zone could schedule games against the Panthers, Lightning, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets at 7pm locally so they would start at 8pm for viewers in the road market.
While again the NHL's proposal is just fine with me, I think the idea of keeping the Panthers out of a conference with 3 Canadian teams makes some degree of sense. As for Jimmy and Donny raising the question of what happens if Phoenix moves? Under the NHL's current proposal (or mine for that matter), only a slight change would be needed if the Coyotes moved east and none if they stayed somewhere out west like Seattle. Let's say the Coyotes end up moving to Quebec, you simply add them to Conference C under the NHL's plan and to the Great Lakes Conference under my alternate view. The unbalanced Conferences seem to allow for relocation rather easily even if more than one team needs to be shuffled due to a particular move. Remember, this is just me taking a stab at something better for the Panthers as a biased fan, it's not meant to be taken that seriously. I do realize that I really put it to St. Louis in my remaking of the NHL map but the league put it to us and Tampa Bay in theirs so someone had to pay.