Coming out of the Sept. 20 board meeting in New York, the League's governors -- for the most part -- expressed a level of comfort with the current two-conference, six-division set-up. The general sentiment was: We're doing pretty well in our present format.
So, while there are some high-level execs who feel a change to a "four conference" approach would better address some problem areas, there just doesn't seem to be enough of an appetite for dramatic change. Remember, any plan will need a two-thirds vote for approval.
Based on my reporting, the Wings or Predators most likely are the candidates to move East, replacing the Jets in the Southeast Division. Geographically, Nashville sliding alongside Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida and Washington makes the most sense; however, Detroit remains a real possibility. It's nearly a sure bet that the Atlantic and Northeast divisions will not change under any plan that keeps the six-division format.
In the West, things are a little trickier. The Wild are lobbying hard for a move to the Central Division, where they'd see more of the Blackhawks and Blues. The Stars, meanwhile, would be very interested in a similar move, allowing them to spend more time in the Central Time Zone. In the end, there doesn't seem to be a way to accommodate both of them.
Logically, the Canucks could be shifted to the Pacific Division, opening a spot for the Jets in the Northwest and the Stars in the Central. A new Pacific Division of the Canucks, Kings, Sharks, Ducks and Coyotes would make geographic sense. And it would be one powerhouse group.
In that scenario, the Wild would remain in the Northwest with the Avalanche, Jets, Oilers and Flames, while the Stars would go to the Central to join the Blackhawks, Blues, Blue Jackets and either the Wings or Predators.
If the Canucks kept their current spot in the Northwest, the Jets might be moved into the Central in a straight swap (with the Wings or Predators filling the vacancy in the Southeast). The reason for that is simple: I don't believe the League sees any sense in having a division consisting of four Canadian-based clubs and only one American-based team. I think that would be a hard sell to the Avs or Wild -- the U.S. teams that would be faced with that option.
And, of course, there's a pretty big wild card in the whole equation -- the Phoenix Coyotes
. If the League can't find a new owner by the end of the season, they might have to allow the franchise to move. In that case, depending on where the Coyotes were to land on the map, the Board of Governors might need another re-alignment discussion in the fall and winter of 2012.