On Tuesday, the NHL gave its board of governors a new plan that would shift around teams and change the divisions. Instead of the current six-division format, the league would have four divisions, and the playoff format would be adjusted. Instead of conference playoffs, there would be a divisional version, with four wild card spots.
It’s pretty clear why some teams don’t like the idea. For example, Dallas would be lumped into the Midwest Division, where the Stars would have to fly to Winnipeg and Minnesota regularly. Meanwhile, teams like Tampa Bay and Florida would have to join the Central Division, where their closest division mate would be the Detroit Red Wings.
While it’s going to be tough to make everyone happy, one team that should be very pleased if this realignment plan is approved by the NHL Players’ Association and the board of governors is the Boston Bruins.
For starters, the Bruins won’t lose any rivals if the renovations go through. They’ll still find themselves facing off with the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens regularly. Certain teams like Detroit wish they were in the same boat, as they’ll be split off from Chicago and St. Louis, whereas Columbus would shift to the East.
Second, the Bruins won’t have any crazy travel arrangements to worry about. On one hand, they will have to visit Florida more often, as the Lightning and the Panthers are currently slated to join the Central Division, but those are two teams that the Bruins typically dominate. There’s nothing wrong with escaping to Florida a couple of times in the winter. Also, rumor has it that the NHL is planning to add a team in Quebec and a second in Toronto, so it’s possible that one of the teams relocating is one of the two from Florida — both of whom struggle with attendance. In comparison to how much a team like Colorado will have to travel, the Bruins should be very pleased.
Lastly, the Bruins stand to gain a nice gem on the schedule as Detroit, a perennial contender, would join the Central Division. The Red Wings are an Original Six team, so Bruins fans will be happy to have Pavel Datsyuk and company on the schedule more often. Overall, the Central Division would host four of the Original Six, so the rivalries will be very strong.
The Chicago Blackhawks lead the NHL at 9-2 odds, with the Pittsburgh Penguins next at 15-2. The Bruins are at 9-1, the Vancouver Canucks have 11-1 odds, and the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues are both given 12-1 chances. The New York Rangers have 18-1 odds to win it all.