SUNRISE, Fla. | There are a few theories out there right now, and this week’s NHL Board of Governors meeting at Pebble Beach may or may not settle how things will shake out next season.
One plan is a simple one-for-one switch with the Winnipeg Jets moving to the Western Conference and either the Detroit Red Wings or Columbus Blue Jackets moving to the Eastern Conference (likely to the Southeast Division with the Capitals). Another involves radical realignment: Four “conferences” with heavy rivalry play including playoffs.
The latest radical proposal would make the following divisions (with old names in place for the sake of nostalgia):
Patrick Conference: Capitals, Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Devils, Islanders, Hurricanes
Adams Conference: Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Senators, Bruins, Sabres, Lightning, Panthers
Norris Conference: Red Wings, Blackhawks, Blues, Wild, Jets, Blue Jackets, Predators, Stars
Smythe Conference: Ducks, Sharks, Kings, Canucks, Oilers, Flames, Avalanche, Coyotes
If that plan goes through, it would mean each team plays home-and-home with each other team and at least five games within the conference – six for the Caps and others in seven-team groupings.
But it would mean even more for the Florida Panthers, who already don’t have it easy.
“We do a lot of travel anyway. I think that would probably make it even more,” Panthers center Stephen Weiss said. “But that’s the nature of the beast. It’s where we live, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Fans in South Florida would likely be on board with more visits from Canadian teams, and Weiss admitted that would be a cool aspect of radical realignment.
“That’d be really neat for us. It’s a lot of travel for us, but at the end of the day we don’t have a say in what goes on anyway,” he said. “What will be will be. But that would be certainly a neat conference to play in with all those teams.”