There are some definite winners and losers as the National Hockey League prepares for the 2020-21 season by planning to rearrange its divisional groupings.
Hockey fans have come to know the modern-day NHL with teams situated in the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Divisions, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the league to think much differently when mapping out next season.
It appears the season will consist of 56 games and will begin in mid-January (Jan. 13 has been floated around) and because the Canada-U.S. non-essential travel ban at the border doesn’t sound like its going to end anytime soon and coronavirus quarantine rules remain in effect, the league must revamp its four divisions.
One thing is for certain, hockey will have an all-Canadian club this year with Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver lumped together.
The other divisions could look like this, but they are still subject to approval by the NHL Board of Governors.
- Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, N.Y. Islanders, N.Y. Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
- Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, Tampa Bay
- Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas
The Canadian division, top to bottom, is the most balanced of all four proposed divisions, although the rebuilding Senators will find it tough to climb into playoff contention.
The biggest winners in a realigned NHL are the defending-champion Lightning, who are by far the best team in their group, as well as Columbus and Carolina, who must be ecstatic to get out of the extremely tough Metro.
The four teams in what will likely make up the Pacific Division — St. Louis, Vegas, Colorado and Dallas — are also smiling as they’d be a virtual lock to make the playoffs.
There are a few teams who probably don’t like their new, albeit temporary, lot in life but none of them can hold a candle to the biggest loser in this realignment — Buffalo.
The Sabres, who currently own the longest active playoff drought (11 seasons and counting) in the NHL, must still look up to Atlantic Division heavyweight Boston, and now have to deal with Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the Islanders and the Rangers.
The good news for Sabres fans is that these temporary divisions are only for one season (fingers crossed), but the bad news is it’s going to be another long year in Buffalo.
Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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