Earlier this week, the NHL's proposed divisional realignment for the 2021 season came to light, with an all-Canadian division and three American divisions, where time zones and travel distances had to be considered.
That proposal was subject to change and no realignments will be official until both the NHLPA and the Board of Governors vote to approve them. Now, it appears the league is considering moving a couple of teams around from the original proposition.
The main complication seems to surround the fact that there aren't enough Pacific teams to make up their own division, so some teams from other time zones -- including central -- would have to join them. This would lead to later start times on the road, which makes it harder for their home fans to watch. Two teams from the central time zone must be a part of the Pacific Division to keep balance, and the preference would be for those teams to be as close in proximity to one another as possible.
"What happened here is that I think what they're gonna do is have two teams closer together go to the West and I think that'll be Minnesota and St. Louis. I think they'll both go in the Pacific Division and Dallas will end up in the Central," Elliotte Friedman said on Sportsnet 590 The FAN's Lead Off on Friday.
"I think Minnesota's concern was they didn't want to be there alone with nobody close to them. St. Louis was more willing to do it and now I think it's going to be St. Louis and Minnesota together."
In the original proposal, the western-most American division was made up of: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Jose, and St. Louis. As Friedman suggests, this could change by adding Minnesota, and moving Dallas to the more Central Division, where they would possibly join Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, and Tampa Bay.
Again, this is all subject to change until approved by both the players and owners.
Friedman continued that due to the unusual circumstances ahead this season, the league could massage its game schedule further to help solve any concern these central teams have about their road games starting later at night.
"The thing that's going to be different about this year is I think one of the considerations the league is saying is if you're concerned about your games starting too late at night, because there's going to be no fans at the games in California, how do you feel if we say, 'OK you're going to have 25 or so games out there and instead of starting them at what would be 10 Eastern ... what if we start them a little earlier? Like we start them at nine Eastern, which would be eight at those two time zones, and I think those two teams (St. Louis and Minnesota) are amenable to that.
"Plus everybody understands this is an unusual year and this is the way they have to do this, so everyone is trying to be good about it," Friedman said. "I just think the concern was that St. Louis and Minnesota aren't sure about just going there by themselves. They wanted someone close by. Dallas is happy to be in the Central, their travel won't be as bad."