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Buffalo Sabres Could Call Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning as Divisional Foes After NHL Realignment

February 25th, 2013 at 2:00 PM
By Paul Lane Sabres 101
The latest NHL realignment proposal would appear to be a mixed bag for the Buffalo Sabres, who would gain the Florida Panthers as a division rival but also the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings.
 
'Detroit Red Wings bench' photo (c) 2010, Anna Enriquez - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
 
A year after the NHL Players Association turned down a proposed four-conference realignment plan, the union and NHL have been working on a tweaked plan. The newly released plan would place teams into two eastern conferences and two western conferences as follows:
  • EAST ONE: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, N.Y. Islanders, N.Y. Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
  • EAST TWO: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
  • WEST ONE: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
  • WEST TWO: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver

The move would return the NHL to its Adams Division days and see four teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs. Since there are two more teams in the eastern conferences, a wild car format is being discussed to even out the chances for qualification.

The biggest change has the Red Wings and Blue Jackets moving east. Both teams play in the Eastern Time Zone, so their current positioning in the Western Conference's Central Division has made travel and TV considerations a hassle. So that move makes complete sense.

So does repositioning teams more accurately by time zone? Colorado would be partnered with Central and Mountain teams instead of Western teams like it is now. Winnipeg, meanwhile, would benefit from being realigned to the west instead of languishing with eastern teams as it does now (the consequence of the Atlanta Thrashers moving north in 2011). The Jets could also start a rival with their closest geographic rival, the Wild.

While most of the league gains, the Sabres seem to lose out somewhat in the move. Two additional tough teams in the Bolts and Wings would be part of Buffalo's division/conference schedule. This makes sense from a travel standpoint – as does renewing the Red Wings/Maple Leafs rivalry from Toronto's days in the Western Conference – but frankly, it makes Buffalo's chances of playoff qualification harder, as does having an eighth team in the conference.

Buffalo's conference would actually create a network executive's delight, with additional games between the Red Wings and hockey hotbeds Buffalo, Boston, Toronto and Montreal to broadcast. The Wings would also play eastern foes New York, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia more often.

Talks are expected to continue. If approved by the union and the NHL Board of Governors, realignment could be in place for the 2013-14 season.

Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL

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