The NHL is set to return on January 13, but things are going to look a good deal different than what we are used to. For the upcoming season, the NHL has realigned the divisions into the North, South, Central, and West. The move was made to eliminate travel and keep things as regional as possible for the 56-game season. it is, as you might expect, a move that not everyone is on board with, but it’s one that is essential given the current state of the pandemic. Let’s not forget how well the league handled the playoffs, so we should perhaps look at the realignment with some excitement. Before we get into the winners and losers, let’s take a look at the 4 divisions so you start getting ready to make your against their NHL odds.
NHL 2021 Season: Winners and losers of realignment
- North — Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets
- East — Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals
- Central — Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning
- West — Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues and Vegas Golden Knights
You have to say that it is Canadian hockey fans who are likely to be the most pumped about this temporary setup. Not only will we see 4 teams make it out of this division, the playoff setup means that one Canadian team is guaranteed a spot in the Stanley Cup semi-finals. That’s exciting for the rabid hockey fans north of the border.
Fans who love rivalry games are in for a treat, as the NHL has done a fantastic job of keeping most of them intact. A couple, such as the Canadiens versus the Bruins, will get lost in the shuffle, but there are still plenty of big rivalry games on tap.
As far as individual teams go, the Tampa Bay Lightning are sure to be happy, as they will not be sharing a division with the Bruins this season. The champions look like a very good bet to navigate the Central quite easily.
The realignment is going to make things a little tougher on fans of certain teams who like to watch every game. This is true for the likes of Montreal and Toronto fans, who are suddenly going to be subjected to a bunch of late games when they face teams out west. That is a small price to pay for getting a season to look forward to.
Since Sidney Crosby joined the league for the 2005-06 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins have not missed the playoffs. That streak is going to be tough to maintain in an East Division that is absolutely stacked from top to bottom.
While there are certainly a few things not to like about NHL realignment for the 2021 season, overall you have to say that the NHL has done a good job of getting ready for what we hope is another exciting season.