After much speculation, the NHL has finalized a plan for realignment that will go into effect next season. While nothing can be absolutely perfect, the new setup of the league will benefit a lot of teams when it comes to travel and developing natural rivals.
Two of the biggest winners will be the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, who will move into the Eastern Conference. For teams in the state of Michigan and Ohio, it made very little logistical sense to spend so much time on the other side of the country.
The Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars will also benefit from being able to stay closer to home in their new division. Those three teams will now be competing against teams in St. Louis, Nashville, Denver and Chicago.
Perhaps the only two teams that really seem to lose out on the realignment are the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. They will be in a division with three Canadian teams along with Buffalo, Boston and Detroit. It is hard to make everyone happy, and no matter who the Florida teams play, they would have to travel to make things work.
Besides saving on travel, the benefits of realignment will help not only strengthen current rivalries, but build new ones as well. Detroit is back in the Eastern Conference, and they will square off against old rivals such as Toronto, Boston and Montreal throughout the year. New teams such as Columbus will also get to build rivalries with teams close by, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With negativity still surrounding the NHL after the lockout, the realignment plan is welcomed good news. Fans, players, fantasy hockey players and owners all are mostly satisfied with the results. If the NHL does in fact expand to 32 teams in the future, the two conferences can be evened out again as well.