With the Winnipeg market pretty much assured a team (if the Board of Governors eff this up, oh boy will there be riots); the move now is what's going to happen with the Divisional alignments after the 2011-12 season. While I've touched on this recently, the more I think about it.....the more idiotic it gets.
I did the math for the distances from Winnipeg to the 29 other NHL teams using Google Maps. To no surprise, the top-1o teams were all Western Conference teams, but also, four of the last six teams on the distance list were all Western Conference teams (Anaheim, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose), then Nashville being in the middle of it all. For the East, Florida and Tampa Bay screw the pooch for the East, rounding the average to 1,600 miles for 14 teams to the 1,249 miles for 15 Western teams. Sure, air travel will help cut down on some driving routes, but still-- something to chew on when it comes to saying the East would be killer for Winnipeg to travel. It's bad, but not as bad as thought to be, especially with that new aero-plane device we've been hearing so much about. (Email me at Scotty.Wazz@Gmail.com if you care about the chart)
More over, you take out Detroit from the West to the East, Western average is 1,277 and East is 1,550. With Columbus; 1,251 in the West and 1,574 in the East.
Then while doing the Face Off Hockey Show in the past weeks, I think JonnyP, Marc "With a 'C'", and myself came to realize.....the divisions don't really matter anymore. With the playoff alignment being as they are, you don't have to really play out of your division like you had to two decades ago. All the divisions mean is that you have at least on representative in the playoffs and you play those teams more often. It's not like in the '90s when you had to actually play out of your division to get to the Conference Finals; therefore making the divisional rivalries actually mean something.
To that wit, I think it doesn't matter where you put Winnipeg now. Especially with Gary Bettman saying the scheduling will be more balanced after the 2011-12 season, the ideal of divisions really don't hold the same brunt as they once did. You're still going to have to travel around North America and the distances will be extreme for some teams over others. You're still going to have the top-8 in the Conference make the playoffs, or top-7 and a divisional leader that is well behind and gets a courtesy spot.
Unless the NHL can find a way to get all the teams into four divisions (two in each conference), the idea of divisions are only for a top-3 spot in the conference standings. Personally-- you should just take out the divisional aspect of it all and actually have the best eight teams in each conference duke it out to represent for the East and West. If you can't play out of your division and have to be crowned divisional champion because of regular season triumphs-- why even have them at all??