USA TODAY US Edition
Realignment winners and losers
The NHL is ready for a 56-game regular-season start Wednesday and will have a new, temporary look.
Because of restrictions on movement across the U.S.-Canada border, the league set up an all-Canada division and realigned the other divisions, which all have sponsored names.
The top four in each division will make the playoffs.
All regular-season games and the first two rounds of the playoffs will be played within the division.
So who won and who lost in realignment?
Winners: Rivalries. The NHL kept most of them intact, particularly the three New York-area teams and Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington from the Metropolitan Division, and the Canadian rivalries of TorontoMontreal and Edmonton-Calgary. Chicago and Detroit are back together for the first time since the Red Wings moved east in 2013. The Stars and Lightning, who played in an entertaining Stanley Cup Final, will face each other eight times, rather than the usual two.
Losers: Rivalries. Several Canadian teams have big rivalries with U.S. teams, and those won’t happen. So no Boston-Montreal or the Buffalo-Toronto matchup that brings hosts of Maple Leafs fans across the border to New York.
Winners: Blues and Avalanche. In their new division, only the Golden Knights were among the top eight in the Western Conference last season, and the Ducks, Kings and Sharks were at the bottom. St. Louis and Colorado should continue to thrive, and they won’t have to face the teams that knocked them out of the playoffs.
Losers: Penguins. With the Bruins joining a division that includes the Islanders, Flyers and Capitals, Pittsburgh could miss the playoffs for the first time since Sidney Crosby’s rookie season in 2005-06.
Winners: Lightning. The defending Stanley Cup champions no longer have the Bruins in their division. Of the teams in this season’s division, only the Stars got within 10 points of the Lightning’s 92 points last season.
Losers: Star gazers. The divisiononly format means Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid and other stars will be seen by fewer teams. And any player who changed divisions won’t get to face his former team.
Winners: Canadian fans. The allCanada division will be loved up north, and other than Ottawa, any team could make the playoffs. Plus, the playoff format guarantees that a Canadian team will make the semifinals, one round from the Stanley Cup Final. No Canadian team has reached the Final since the Canucks in 2011.
Losers: Sleepy fans. Last season, Blues and Wild division road games were mostly in the Central Time Zone. Now, their fans will have to stay up later. Canadiens, Maple Leafs and Senators fans will also have a bunch of later games.