Bold realignment is path NHL should take

Updated 12/4/2011 8:23 PM

Watching the Blackhawks and Blues go at it Saturday night with all kinds of dislike between the two teams, I asked the following question on Twitter: How good would it be if the Hawks and Blues met in the playoffs?

We might have a better shot at it in the years ahead if one of the two proposals for NHL realignment the Board of Governors will discuss when they meet this week in California is adopted for the 2012-13 season.


Under the most radical plan, as reported by CBC Sports' Elliotte Friedman on Saturday's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, the NHL would go from its present format of six divisions to four "conferences" -- which is what Commissioner Gary Bettman is said to prefer calling them.

The Hawks would be in an eight-team "conference" along with Detroit, St. Louis, Minnesota, Nashville, Columbus, Dallas and Winnipeg.

The other three "conferences" would line up like this:

• Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix.

• Florida, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Buffalo and Ottawa.

• Washington, Carolina, Rangers, Islanders, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

It's going to take 20 out of 30 votes from owners to carry any proposal, and Florida general manager Dale Tallon already is on record saying he doesn't want to be in a conference with Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Buffalo and Ottawa because of travel concerns.

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The second proposal the board of governors are expected to consider is far more simple. It keeps the six present divisions in place with Winnipeg moving to the Western Conference and one team, likely Detroit, transferring from the West to the East.

The Red Wings have made it clear they want to go to the East in order to play most of their games in the same Eastern time zone as Detroit.

The radical plan for realignment is the one the owners should accept, if for no other reason than because it includes a return to divisional playoffs for the first two rounds.

We all know the best and most heated of rivalries are created in the playoffs, which is why Vancouver has replaced Detroit and St. Louis as the Hawks' biggest rival as we sit here in 2011.

All you need to do is turn back the clock to see when NHL rivalries were at their best because of divisional playoffs. Remember the Hawks and North Stars? Hawks and Blues? Canadiens and Nordiques? Flames and Oilers? Rangers and Islanders? There is nothing like any of those now.


Not even the Hawks and Canucks.

Something to build on:

The numbers say the Hawks still are one of the worst teams in the NHL at killing penalties.

But a 4-for-4 effort in kills in Saturday's 5-2 win at St. Louis at least had the Hawks feeling more confident about themselves, even if the Blues have the worst power play in the league.

"Sometimes people think confidence only helps you offensively on the power play or 5-on-5," Jonathan Toews said. "But when when you're trying to do everything right and working your tail off in the PK and things always seem to go wrong, it does hurt your confidence."