LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22: Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins arrives at the 2011 NHL Awards at the Palms Casino Resort June 22, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
By now, it's no secret that the NHL is on the verge of realignment. The lynchpin, of course, was the relocation of the once-Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, bringing the return of the Jets to the NHL.
Of course, because nobody gave the NHL any time to plan for the change in the season ahead, the Jets - who are a three-hour plane ride from their closest Eastern Conference adversary in Toronto, and are more than six hours from their farthest in South Beach - will play in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division.
But beginning next season, all that will change. And change in a very dramatic fashion. There are many proposed new division alignments, but the one that everyone agrees on is that there will be four divisions, two with eight teams and two with seven teams each.
The popular consensus now is that the divisions will be set up by time zone. Of course, that would put two full divisions in the Eastern Conference in the Eastern Time Zone, and would leave Detroit the lone Eastern Time Zone team in the Western Conference, with Colorado the lone Mountain Time Zone team in the Pacific Coast Division.
That would make the divisions look something like this:
If this is the direction that the league heads, it won't change much for the Bruins; they'll get to keep their longstanding rivalries with Toronto and Montreal and the rivalry with the Rangers that ESPN would talk up if they cared about hockey at all, as well. It'd be nice to see the B's find themselves in a division with Philadelphia, because that rivalry has really taken hold lately and could continue to grow (also because this particular writer believes that every professional sports league that values itself as a customer commodity should have Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington in the same division).
What it will affect is how many times the Bruins (or any other team) play opponents from out of their division or conference. Currently, NHL teams play their division opponents six times in a season, the rest of their conference four times and teams from the opposing conference at least once, with some home-and-homes filling out the 82-game schedule. If the conference schedule remains the same, teams would play 42 divisional games, 28 conference games and would only have 12 games left, with 15 teams in the opposing conference.