Now that the Thrashers are officially extinct and the Winnipeg "Jets" have joined the Southeast Division, at least for next season, perhaps it's time for the NHL to come up with a new concept for the way the league is divided up?
The regional division concept was created to spark regional rivalries as well as to help keep travel costs in line. Has that idea worked?
It seems that the most passionate rivalries are born in the playoffs, although there are a few very interesting regional rivalries out there that existed before the current division formats.
Talk around the hockey world indicates that there are three primary candidates to move to the Southeast; Detroit, Columbus, and Nashville. Arguments could be made for each franchise, but if Detroit moves to the Southeast Division, is it still the "Southeast" Division?
I guess it makes as much sense as Dallas being in the Pacific. But maybe some name changes are in order?
Instead of the regional names, the league could go back to the old Norris, Adams, Patrick, and Smythe idea, except update the names.
Create a Gretzky Division, a Lemieux Division, Francis, Orr, and so on.
Or scrap the division idea totally and just have 15 teams in each conference. That way there would be no advantage given to division winners who currently get placed in the top three seedings in the conference standings for playoff purposes.
(Someone creative would have to devise an even game schedule in that format).
For now anyway, Winnipeg is in the Southeast. Everyone has to live with it. But who should take their place for the 2012-13 season, and why?
Let's look again at the three likely choices.
Nashville is a southern city and would fit in geographically, but they are in the Central Time Zone and that presents challenges. Detroit is in the Eastern Time Zone, but it is more centrally located. Columbus is another possibility.
Maybe Winnipeg should stay in the Southeast out of spite?
Interesting days are ahead for the NHL. What do you think they should do?