All signs point to temporary divisional realignment for the 2020-2021 NHL season, as has been widely believed, but we now have a few hints as to what that looks like.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday during an online interview with the Maccabi USA Sports Show that travel restrictions in place to contend with the spread of coronavirus would make realignment a necessity. Plans for said realignment would need the approval of the Board of Governors, with a call scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
“There are a lot of things we have to do to return to play,” Bettman said. “For us to return to play, we’re not going to play 82 games, obviously, and we have travel issues because of the restrictions at the border between Canada and the US. You can’t go back and forth, so we’re actually going to have to realign.”
That realignment will almost definitely include the much-discussed Canadian Division, sticking the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, and Vancouver Canucks under the same proverbial umbrella.
The 24 American teams would be set up in three divisions, with eight teams in each.
On Wednesday, Sportsnet reported those divisional alignments as follows:
- Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
- Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues
Remember, those alignments are just proposals and nothing is set in stone. There appears to be some debate over the placements of the Blues and Wild.
The players will also have to sign off on realignment, but it’s believed things should work out pretty well. The NHL and NHLPA have shelved discussions about finances for the coming season and are focused on putting the game back on ice.
As far as we know, the proposed return date for the NHL is January 13 with training camp set up for January 3.
The goal is to return to “normal” for the 2021-2022 season, with the Seattle Kraken entering the league in the Pacific Division.