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Did Wild owner Craig Leipold spill the beans on new division alignment?

Jul 7, 2011, 3:26 PM EDT

Dale Tallon, Craig Leipold, Jim Rutherford Getty Images

The NHL’s plans to realign the divisions next year and go to a new layout for the way the league is set up is an issue that’s got a lot of fans imaginations captured. After all, with the wants of three teams to move east in Columbus, Detroit, and Nashville as well as the need to get Winnipeg out of the Southeast Division, sprucing things up makes a world of sense.Of course, it’ll be tricky for the NHL to get things together in a way that will make everyone happy and while the talk of doing a balanced schedule will help make things a bit more even, laying teams out geographically helps the divisional layout.

While no one at the NHL is tipping their hand as to how things will go, luckily Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold took to the airwaves today on KFAN in Minneapolis on the Paul Allen Show with Kevin Gorg and very well may have tipped off for how the new Central Division will be laid out and how some of these new things will play out. (audio here, skip to 21 minute mark)

“Our division would include the Winnipeg Jets, us, the Blues, the Nashville Predators, the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and maybe the Columbus Blue Jackets… maybe not depending on if they go east or west. I am all in favor of that. I think that is a grand slam, home run, hat trick for our team.”

With that kind of divisional lay out that means we’ll see the Detroit Red Wings somewhere else. We’ll also see them separated from the Blackhawks. The decision over whether or not to send Columbus to the East is also up in the air with this layout. Nashville too seems to be getting worked over as well. The one difference here being that, without Columbus, the entire division exists in the Central time zone.

“We’re all Central Division now. All of our teams, except for Columbus, all of our teams will be Central Division. We’ll play less teams in Canada. We will play every team home and away at least one time.”

There’s the confirmation on the balanced schedule. No longer will it be up to a few years between visits from some teams in other conferences. That set up makes a lot more sense because it means getting the guaranteed one visit a year for Western teams from the likes of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Steve Stamkos among others. Bringing the big stars to all the fans only makes good business sense.

As for how Leipold feels about being aligned with Winnipeg, he couldn’t be more excited. Oh yeah, he’s pretty fired up about the old Norris Division tie-ins too. There’s also a bittersweet slip of the tongue too.

“Everybody’s talking about it. We’d love to have Winnipeg. It’s a natural rivalry for us. The closest team in the NHL [for us] is Winnipeg. We’d love to have them in that division. I think with Chicago and St. Louis the old North Star divi… I mean Norris Division. Come on… How much fun is that?”

Hey, North Star Division would sound great to us just so long as the other divisions were named after defunct teams. Let’s just make sure they’re named after teams that have no chance of being resurrected in the future. Sorry Nordiques Division.

Of course with the Central Division mostly figured out, where do the rest of the teams go? Well, the Pacific Division and Western Conference seems to have itself figured out already.

Potential Central Division
St. Louis

Potential Pacific Division
Los Angeles
San Jose

That’s 15 teams in the conference with one division having seven teams and the other with eight, fitting what we’d learned before. Columbus being the “maybe” team there means that perhaps there’s discussion on whether or not it’ll be Columbus or Detroit that stays in the Central. No disrespect to either Columbus or Detroit, but that Central Division has a lot more “oomph” to it with Detroit there.

If that layout stays that way, however, that leaves the Eastern Conference with Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Washington. Figuring out a way to lay that out in a geographically sound way will be tricky with Carolina and the Florida teams being outliers. Perhaps something that’s more map-friendly would work out. Here’s our silly suggestion that borrows a bit from the ACC:

Possible Atlantic Division
New Jersey
NY Islanders
NY Rangers
Tampa Bay

Possible Mid-Atlantic Division

Our thinking here being that all the teams along the extreme east coast will all stick together and all the teams that find themselves a bit further out from the ocean can be piled up together. Mind you, this is a totally silly idea, but given the disproportionate difference between teams in the north and south the proposed idea to do a Northeast and South division might not work out.

All we know is that the Mid-Atlantic Division would be a bloodbath with the three Canadian teams, renewed Original Six wars with Detroit against Toronto and Montreal, and the Wings getting to play Pittsburgh more than a few times per year. Let that hate flow anew. Of course, if Detroit and Columbus swapped spots there, it’s still intriguing but potentially brutal for the Jackets.

We don’t know for sure that Leipold’s take on the Central Division is true and we won’t know until something is announced later on, but he sounded awfully convinced that this was how things would shake out and being that he’s an owner, he’s privy to that kind of information. Speculate away and see if you can come up with better ideas than these.

(Major thanks to PHT reader and commenter “whatagreatfootballmind” for the tip)

  1. sknut - Jul 7, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    I think Florida and TB are in a tough spot you can’t help where your located and this won’t help their travel schedule. Its about time they do the balanced schedule though, its good for all fans to see every team at least once.

  2. nickr214 - Jul 7, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Don’t like this at all. U can’t take boston out of it’s previous division. No Boston versus Montreal 6 times? I’ll be pissed. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. Not sure

    • Joe Yerdon - Jul 7, 2011 at 4:49 PM

      Nick: That part is just our own guess and stab in the dark as to what may happen. Leipold’s take on the Central is the only thing that’s got any real footing.

      • nhlbruins90 - Jul 8, 2011 at 10:02 AM

        It will be a cold, cold day in hell when the Habs and B’s are in separate divisions. It will never happen. (I know this is all speculation though.)

    • comeonnowguys - Jul 8, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      I’m with you. I can’t believe they’d break up Habs/B’s AND ‘Hawks/Red Wings.

  3. andrewfbrowne - Jul 7, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    That mid-atlantic division is definitely a blood bath. I would like to keep the Bruins in the division just for the old Adams division rivalry.

    Look at it though, that is probably taking all the best hockey towns with the exception of a few and putting them all in one division:

    Buffalo, huge hockey town, passionate fans, small market, but lots of fans
    Detroit, they do not call it hockey town for nothing
    Toronto, it is in Canada, nuff said
    Montreal, see note above.
    Ottawa, see note above
    Pittsburgh, ridiculous hockey market with a ton of fans, actually ridculous sports market.

    That only leaves Carolina, which is in a city full of transplants most of whom come from North Eastern citites and there are a large number of hockey fans there.

    • psujay - Jul 7, 2011 at 7:49 PM

      Pittsburgh – A ridiculous hockey market…? You can’t go bankrupt three times and be considered a good market. They’re profitable when they have stars though, that’s true.

      • chobes68 - Jul 7, 2011 at 11:24 PM

        You beat me to the punch. This was the same organization that threatened to move to KC, when they were bad, not drawing because they were bad. Ridiculous fan bases draw even when their team is bad. If they were ridiculous, the Pirates would sell out all the time, and the Penguins wouldn’t have been at the bottom in attendance when they pulled their power play.

        I’ll chime in too, losing Detroit vs the Hawks would suck.

      • tk1966 - Jul 8, 2011 at 12:47 PM

        You are equating being poorly run with the fan base. Hate to tell you but the fans were not the ones mortgaging the team to make movie deals, etc. And they only threatened to move to KC as leverage to get a deal for the arena – something all businesses do in one for or another. They fans only bailed when it appeared to them that they would be supporting a team that was gone. Ask any fan of any team in any sport if he would pay money to sit in the stands to watch his team lose and then be in another city in a year or two. You show me a fan that says he’d be there, and I’d show you someone that is either stupid or is off their medication.

  4. bigfranky75 - Jul 7, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    in the East, substitute Boston for Carolina and that layout makes a whole lot more sense…the proposed (your guess) Mid-Atlantic with Boston in there swapping out Carolina would be EPIC!

  5. nyncsports - Jul 7, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    The Mid. Should have Boston and Columbus. Atlantic should Carolina, FLA and TB. Central should keep Detroit. Pacific is fine

  6. greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 7, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    Since the Western Conference covers all 4 time zones, if this realignment is right, it’s perfect ( western conference wise). No division is larger than 2 time zones. It puts both Minnesota and Dallas they both want to be. Beings back the Norris with Minnesota, Winnipeg, St. Louis, Chicago, and hopefully Detroit. Dallas used to be in Minnesota. The other division seems like it is lined up nicely too, basically Colorado on west. Seems like only one eastern time zone gets hosed, but it’s still better than Minnesota and Dallas playing the majority of their road games between 8:00 and 9:30 on the west coast.

  7. cannonblast14 - Jul 7, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    Not that it matters in this situation becuase it may be worse, but i dont understand how the Wings can move to the East over Columbus. Columbus is more east and is closer to most other teams in that division

    • chobes68 - Jul 7, 2011 at 11:26 PM

      I agree. Plus, Columbus doesn’t really have a blood rival in the Central. Having them play the Pennsylvania teams more could create that, similar to the football rivalries.

      Losing Detroit from the Central would blow, but bringing Minny in, along with Dallas makes sense.

  8. geshtahl - Jul 7, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    As a Red Wings fan, I hope that Columbus moves east since I’m kind of partial to the Detroit-Chicago-St. Louis hate-triangle.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 7, 2011 at 9:19 PM

      Don’t forget the old Norris days with Minnesota, and you get 2 for the price of one. Dallas who used to be Minnesota and now the Wild.

    • chobes68 - Jul 7, 2011 at 11:27 PM

      Amen. As a Hawks fan, I like the idea of bringing in the Wild and Stars, that should be fun, especially from the Wild’s perspective. Losing Detroit for the sake of Columbus makes no sense.

  9. redwinglion - Jul 7, 2011 at 10:55 PM

    PLEASE get Detroit into the East. As a Wings fan I cannot begin to tell you how irritating it is to have all of those 10:30 EST start times. It kills ratings.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 8, 2011 at 12:22 AM

      Stop your complaing. My God! You still have to make a trip to the West coast every year. BALANCED SCHEUDLE. Your gonna play every team at least once on the road.

      Eastern Conference has 15 games. You play both home and away, which is 30 games.

      Central Division has 6 opponents. If you play them 4 times each (2 home 2 away) gives you 24 games. Even the games against the rest of the division, your local start time would be 8:00, as known as PRIME TIME.

      You have to play the Pacific teams once at home as well. That is 8 more, 7:00 local starts. Your complaining over playing the Pacific division on the road 8, maybe 16 times a season? Colorado, Calgary, Edmonton and Phoenix all play in the Mountain, so local start time is 9:00. Not the worse thing in the world. That leaves Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, and Los Angeles as the only 10:00 start times. 4 or 8 games a year.

      Get over it!

      • redwinglion - Jul 8, 2011 at 7:25 AM

        Please. I have just as much of a right to complain about it as you have to complain about anything else. “Get over” that.

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 8, 2011 at 9:05 AM

        It’s just starting times of hockey games. Why don’t you find something better to bitch about, like how Bush destroyed this country and Obama had made it worse than that.

    • comeonnowguys - Jul 8, 2011 at 11:47 AM

      I really hope they put even more focus on already increased division sizes, which means Detroit and Nashville wouldn’t have to travel as much to the west coast.

      I think Columbus is a better fit. There’s just too much history with Detroit and the old Norris teams. I like Nashville in the Central. Columbus is hurting though, barring relocation, they would likely benefit more than the other two teams from new rivalries with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, etc.

  10. hooockey - Jul 8, 2011 at 1:08 AM

    You can’t separate Montreal from Boston, or Pittsburgh from Philly; that will never happen.

    Possible Atlantic Division
    New Jersey
    NY Islanders
    NY Rangers
    Tampa Bay

    Possible Mid-Atlantic Division

    I can’t see it working any other way.

    It gets really interesting if Phoenix moves to Quebec. Do they make Detroit go back West?

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 8, 2011 at 1:43 AM

      First of all it is either Detroit or Columbus going east. My money is on Columbus. They have only been around 10 years. Will the NHL break up Detroit from Chicago and St. Louis who have been division rivals for 30 years, the beginning of the 1981-82 season. Especially if the rumored shake up to the playoffs happen, where 1st plays 4th and 2nd plays 3rd in the quarterfinals. Semi finals have those winners playing for a chance in the conference finals vs the other division winner.

      Second, the East has not been leaked at all. That was PHT’s guess of what it would look like. The only thing I would assume about the East is that Florida and Tampa will be in the division. Beyond that is anybody’s guess.

      My guess for the east:
      Florida, Tampa, Carolina, Washington, Columbus, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh

      New Jersey, islanders, rangers, buffalo, Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto.

      • greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 8, 2011 at 1:55 PM

        Your wrong. It wouldn’t be more 10:00 games. First 2 rounds would be normal 7 or 8 start time. Only chance it would be 10 is if they made it to the western finals. Just like if they made it to the cup finals as an east team, still would be a 10 start time for up to 3 or 4 games.

  11. comeonnowguys - Jul 8, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    With divisional playoffs, you could have Detroit in the West with less of those P.I.T.A. 10pm start times.

    I’d love to see:

    Smythe: Anaheim, Colorado, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
    Norris: Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg

    Adams: Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, New Jersey, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, Ottawa, Toronto
    Patrick: Carolina, Columbus, Florida, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Washington

  12. Dave Dunn - Jul 8, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    Smythe: Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, LA, Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix
    Norris: Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Minnesota, Nashville, Colorado, Winnipeg

    Adams: Ottawa, Toronto, Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, NJ
    Patrick: Columbus, Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina

    if the Nordiques (Coyotes) come back:
    Smythe: Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, LA, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado
    Norris: Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Minnesota, Nashville, Winnipeg, Columbus

    Adams: Ottawa, Toronto, Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, NY Rangers, NY Islanders, Quebec
    Patrick: Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina, NJ

  13. greatminnesotasportsmind - Jul 8, 2011 at 10:52 PM

    Have Detroit an eastern time zone team, 6 central time zone teams, and 1 mountain time zone team in 1 division? Are you drink, high, or both?

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