What's Up with the New 2020-21 NHL Division Re-Alignment?
-- by Patrick Day
The 2020-2021 NHL season is scheduled to begin sometime around January 13th.
The proposed alignment will break up the league in to four divisions, three in the United States and one solely for the Canadian teams. The need for one Canadian division stems from the Canadian government's lock down and protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic. The other divisions will be broken in to three groups of 8 teams with relative geographical and economical benefits. Here is my breakdown for each division.
The Canadian Division
Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadians, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets
The Canadian Division should be one of the most entertaining divisions for the regular hockey fan. Each team has a strong fan base and pitting Canadian versus Canadian will be a great story line for the season. Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto have made several off-season moves that should produce immediate results. Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Vancouver made some signings, but mainly stood pat with their rosters. Ottawa signed and traded for several players, yet they should be still in rebuild mode. However, Ottawa will be a tough opponent for first month of the season.
My prediction: Montreal and Toronto should be on top of the division. Edmonton and Winnipeg should follow, and Calgary finishing in 5th. Vancouver might be fighting with Calgary, but Ottawa will be securely in last place. Ottawa is in a rebuild mode and should need one more season to move to a competitive level.
Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders (NYI), New York Rangers (NYR), Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
The Division East is made up of mainly the Metro division, tightly controlled in the Northeast region of the United States. The division does not have much room from the top to the bottom. Each team have talent, bright prospects, or some recent successes to build their teams on. Boston, NYI, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington will be in the playoff mix. Buffalo has some talent, but their front offices still need another year to solidify their philosophy. New Jersey and Buffalo might be fighting for the last place in the division. NYR will be the wild card of the group, they could finish first or last.
My prediction: NY Islanders and Philadelphia should be on top of the division. Boston, Washington, and Pittsburgh have aging rosters and many question marks. NYR and Buffalo should be in the 6/7 spots, however, NYR will be tough for opponents toward the end of the season. New Jersey still has a way to go, finishing in 8th.
Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Division Central spans from Florida to Minnesota, the American South to the Ohio Valley into the upper Midwest. Chicago, Detroit are both teams looking to rebuild. Both teams have obvious faults: Detroit lacks the scoring power; Chicago lacks the goaltending. Columbus and Carolina will have the most balanced teams. Nashville and Minnesota have some aging players and contracts that hinder their growth and prevent them from really competing. Tampa Bay is the defending Stanley Cup Champions and have fought all offseason to get under the salary cap. They have a solid championship roster, with the best goalie in the league.
My prediction: Tampa Bay will be the top team in the division. Columbus and Carolina should be fighting for the 2nd/3rd spots. Nashville, Minnesota, and Florida are going to be fighting for 4th. Chicago and Detroit are easily on the bottom of the division.
Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Las Vegas Golden Knights
The Division West clearly has three teams that are better than other divisions and three teams on the bottom that, if not for Detroit and Ottawa, would be the worst in the league. Colorado and Las Vegas have the talent to be Cup contenders, while St. Louis may be taking a step back. St. Louis is a season away from winning the title and still could be in the mix. Arizona, Anaheim, and Los Angeles have teams that are just bad and need some major overhauls. Arizona has some pieces that might be moved at the trade deadline. Dallas is better than San Jose, on paper, but San Jose could be surprise of the division.
My prediction: Colorado is the best of this division. Las Vegas and St. Louis are even but the Golden Knights should finish higher. Pay attention to the end of the schedule to see if these teams are playing the weaker teams, it may be the difference in the standings. Dallas and San Jose should finish 4th/5th. Anaheim, Los Angeles, Arizona finish up the bottom. Arizona might be competing with Ottawa and Detroit for bottom of the entire league.