If I Could Change The NHL

I have always been a hockey fan and I always will be.  Despite its flaws, I still love the NHL.  Nevertheless, I believe the NHL can be better and should consider some changes.  No, I will not go on any diatribe about poor officiating or goalies being overly padded to the point where they resemble the Michelin man.  I am here to discuss radical division realignment AND reducing each conference to two divisions.

I believe the NHL should reduce each conference to two divisions, as it would create more marquee matchups and a more exciting playoff atmosphere throughout the regular season.  With three divisions, you are more likely to have a team or two that coasts their way to the playoffs because they play in a weak division and have a soft schedule (for example, the Washington Capitals for years in the Southeast Division).

If you reduce each conference to two divisions, that makes the divisions tougher and more competitive.  Having only two divisions would also enable certain teams to face one another more often than they normally do under the three-division format.  Surely, the NHL would love to see the Pittsburgh Penguins (led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) play against the Capitals (led by Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) more often.

Gretzky has more ASSISTS than anybody in NHL history has POINTS. His number 99 is retired throughout the NHL. He has been hockey's greatest ambassador. What better way to honor Gretzky for all time than to name a division after him as well?

If I could change the NHL, I would reduce each conference to two divisions apiece, and I would switch a few teams from one conference to the other (bring Columbus to the East and move Toronto back to the West).  Under my format, both division winners would receive automatic playoff bids and there would be six wild cards.  In addition to reducing each conference to two divisions and realigning some teams, I would rename these divisions after legends of the game.  I would name these divisions after Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

When teams are not playing their division rivals, I would like to see more Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference matchups (it is important for fans everywhere to have a chance to witness the elite players of the game).  The NHL must do a better job of marketing their stars (and that includes stars other than Crosby and Ovechkin).

Listed below are the division alignments I considered:

Eastern Conference

Lemieux Division
Columbus Blue Jackets
Montreal Canadiens
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals

Orr Division
Atlanta Thrashers
Boston Bruins
Buffalo Sabres
Carolina Hurricanes
Florida Panthers
Nashville Predators
Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference

Gretzky Division
Calgary Flames
Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings
Minnesota Wild
Ottawa Senators
St. Louis Blues
Toronto Maple Leafs
Vancouver Canucks

Howe Division
Anaheim Ducks
Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Detroit Red Wings
Phoenix Coyotes
San Jose Sharks

The teams I place in these divisions and conferences are not necessarily set in stone, as I am open to discussion about it.  I do think these ideas are worth consideration, and the NHL should look into it.  I believe it is a topic worthy of discussion.

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