NHL Realignment: How the Blackhawks Could Be Impacted

With all the talk of the Thrashers leaving Atlanta (and both of their fans) in favor of Canada, speculation is running wild that the NHL may rearrange some of the divisions as part of the move.

How could that impact the Blackhawks? Let’s take a look.

On May 28, during his media availability before the Stanley Cup Finals started in Chicago, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that True North was in the mix for an NHL franchise to head back to Winnipeg.

“There has been a lot of speculation about Winnipeg.  Winnipeg did make a bona fide offer,” he said. “We never concluded a deal.  That offer was made by Mark Chipman and David Thomson as partners in True North”

The Winnipeg Free Press is pretty confident that there will be NHL hockey in Manitoba when the 2011-12 season opens, and even claims that the NHL has unofficially started working on a regular season schedule that would include games in Manitoba.

Winnipeg was a confirmed target for a team when Bettman spoke a year ago.

“If we’re going to move a franchise, there are a couple of places in Canada that I would like to give my attention first, because when both Winnipeg and Quebec lost their franchises, it was because — remember I always talk about three things for franchises: market, owner and building. And both of those teams were moved because two of the criteria went away: There was no building, and there was no owner.  Nobody wanted to own the team there anymore.  To the extent that those markets are in a position to deal with those issues, I would like to try and fix something that I wish might not have happened in the first place, not unlike what we did in Minnesota.”

As TSN’s Darren Dreger pointed out yesterday, though, this process will probably not come to a conclusion until at least the postseason is over, if not after the NHL Awards and NHL Draft. The league has never been a big fan of non-playoff news overwhelming the games in headlines, but it appears they can no longer control this freight train.

According to our friends at The Fourth Period,

“[It] appears the Columbus Blue Jackets are poised to make their way down to the Southeast, which is believed to be a temporary solution (though likely long-term, providing the Coyotes or the Islanders another team don’t move). As much as the Detroit Red Wings want to head back to the Eastern Conference, that doesn’t look like an option, right now, or in the near future. With the Blue Jackets heading to the Southeast, the Jets/Moose/whatever would actually jump into the Northwest, moving the Minnesota Wild to the Central.”

For Blackhawks fans of longer than 10 years, having Minnesota in the same division as the Hawks brings back great memories of the Norris Division. For all the attention that the Blackhawks-Canucks rivalry gets now, the old North Stars-Blackhawks rivalry of the 1980s was every bit as heated.

Nothing is finalized, but it appears there is a very good chance the Blackhawks will be playing in a new-look Central Division next year.

The Thrashers ranked 28th in the NHL, filling just 72.6 percent of their seats. They haven’t ranked higher than 23rd in the past four years, and haven’t been above 85 percent of capacity over that span.

7 thoughts on “NHL Realignment: How the Blackhawks Could Be Impacted

  • May 17, 2011 at 9:48 am

    It really makes sense to move Columbus to the Southeast. From a competition standpoint, I’d love to get rid of Nashville or Detroit, but from a rivalry standpoint, I’d hate to lose those games. Despite the hatred for Detroit, you have to really respect the team and their style and same for Nashville (without the hate). Overall, I’d want to keep them in our division and swap a crappy Columbus for a crappy Minnesota. As you mentioned, the Hawks/North Stars battles were pretty epic. Also evidently Columbus loses a lot of money on travel and its hard to grow a fanbase with some 10PM road game starts, so moving to the East would help the struggling franchise.

    However, evidently, Detroit has some sort of unspoken agreement with the NHL that if its a possibility they would have the option of moving to the East, which would most likely mean that Boston moves to the Atlantic and Pitt moves to the Southeast (more Crosby/Ovechkin games). Seems like a whole lot of shake up to appease the Red Wings, but thats not so unfathomable of a notion.

    Also, word out of Detroit yesterday was that official word was that the team would not move to the East NEXT YEAR. Couple that with the rumors that the Thrashers could move to Manitoba, yet still play out of the Southeast division for another year, again lends credence to the possibility of Detroit moving to the East for the 2012-2013 season.

  • May 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Another wrinkle I forgot about…the fact that Phoenix will probably be sold prior to the 2012-2013 season means theres a chance that the Coyotes will be moving next year. That might make the NHL want to hold off on realignment another year until that is settled one way or another. If they move its going to be somewhere in Eastern Canada (Hamilton, Quebec, etc). If that ends up happening then this is what I’m guessing realignment will look like

    Boston moves from Northeast to Atlantic
    Pitt moves from Atlantic to Southeast
    Canadian Coyotes move from Pacific to Northeast

    Atlanta/Manitoba moves from Southeast to Northwest
    Colorado moves from Northwest to Pacific

    I see no way how Detroit could move to the East if the Coyotes move to Eastern Canada.



    Canadian Coyotes

    Tampa Bay

    St. Louis


    San Jose

  • May 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Here’s how this should be done if Atlanta moves to Winnipeg.Rename the divisons too:
    Northeast Division
    Detroit Red Wings
    Toronto Maple Leafs
    Buffalo Sabres
    Pittsburgh Penguins
    Ottawa Senators

    East Division
    New York Islanders
    New York Rangers
    Boston Bruins
    Montreal Canadiens
    New Jersey Devils

    Atlantic Division
    Philadelphia Flyers
    Washington Capitals
    Tampa Bay Lightning
    Carolina Hurricanes
    Florida Panthers

    Central Division
    Columbus Blue Jackets
    Chicago Blackhawks
    St.Louis Blues
    Nashville Predators
    Minnesota Wild

    Northwest Divison
    Winnipeg Jets
    Calgary Flames
    Edmonton Oilers
    Colorado Avalanche
    Vancouver Canucks

    Pacific Divison
    San Jose Sharks
    Los Angeles Kings
    Dallas Stars
    Anaheim Ducks
    Phoenix Coyotes

  • May 20, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Good point Ozzie19, as much as I would love to see Detroit move to the east and more specifically the north east, your criteria does make sense…

  • May 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    the problem with boston moving is that the boston montreal series would be dimmed

  • May 20, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    @Steve: This will NEVER happen

  • May 23, 2011 at 1:29 am

    As a Detroit fan I’d miss the Chicago games on the schedule. But to not have to stay up late 8x a year for the west coast games, and the 8x a year for the MST teams and to be reunited with Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and New York I’d take it in a heartbeat.

    Sorry Chicago. We’ll miss ya, we’re off to the East!

    Don’t think for a sec the NHL won’t break up the rivalry. They did with Detroit-Toronto. Toronto fans were sayin the same thing to us back in 1998…”We’ll miss ya, we’re off to the East!”

    Detroit has helped prop up the West for two decades now. Chicago is an elite club and a cornerstone franchise. Now that they have their young stars locked up and a great team they should be the ones to be the flagship team out West. Let Detroit go East where they belong.

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