St. Louis Blues: NHL Should Use Five Division Format, But Won’t

Oskar Sundqvist #70 of the St. Louis Blues (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Oskar Sundqvist #70 of the St. Louis Blues (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The NHL has to shuffle divisions for 2021 due to restrictions. However, a simple answer to the St. Louis Blues avoiding travel is one the league likely won’t look into.

As we inch toward whatever will comprise the 2021 NHL season, the only thing we are sure of at the moment is the St. Louis Blues will not play in their traditional division. In fact, they seem likely to get the short end of the stick.

The most recent predictions have the Blues playing in some form of the Pacific Division. The main question, right now, seems to be whether it will be Dallas or Minnesota joining them in that division.

Why they would not both be over there is anyone’s guess. Geography doesn’t matter, apparently, since both cities are further west than St. Louis, but pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

One thing that would alleviate all this consternation about traveling farther than this team or playing in wrong time zones is switching to five divisions. The NHL is already saying this change is only for the 2021 season, unless this pandemic lasts longer of course.

No matter what the scenario, you have your Canadian division as it is. There are seven teams north of the border, which actually works out mathematically.

That puts the same number of teams in every American division. Four American divisions of six teams are 24 teams, plus the seven Canadian teams and that’s your 31 teams

The Blues would be in a division much better suited to travel and game times. Along with St. Louis, it would be Dallas, Minnesota, Chicago, Nashville and Detroit. To be honest, that’s the Central Division that makes the most sense even during normal times, but the Red Wings consider themselves an eastern team.

Your eastern divisions would stay about the same. One would be the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and then you toss a coin. If you want to keep the Keystone State rivalry, you bring Pittsburgh into that division. Otherwise, you keep New York together and have the Buffalo Sabres together.

That puts the other eastern division featuring the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes and either Pittsburgh or Buffalo.

Then, your western division consists of the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose Sharks, L.A. Kings and Anaheim Ducks. In this scenario, only two teams have to cross time zones out of the American divisions.

In the other proposals, some teams are crossing two time zones to play in their division. St. Louis is one of those teams and nobody wants to watch the Blues play at 9:30 pm unless it’s for a playoff game.

If the NHL is only going to do divisional play, it would force more games against one team, but do it playoff style. Do a series of games against one opponent, create that true rivalry that only comes out during the playoffs and regular season games take on a lot more meaning.

That also cuts down on travel since you might be staying in one city for a week instead of just a few days for a back-to-back. It cuts down on wear and tear on the players as well, since there is almost no crossing half the country (sorry Canadian teams, but you were going to do it no matter what the divisions are.)

The main argument against an odd number of divisions would likely be playoff spots. Give the top two teams in each division a guaranteed spot and the final spots would be divvied up based on record.

In the dream scenario, your top two teams in the Canadian division would be one from the east and one from the west. That way, you send them to their respective sides of the playoffs when they split up.

Of course, you might run into issues if Toronto is the only playoff caliber team from Canada coming out of the eastern side, but you run into complaints about teams getting snubbed even in regular years.

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Mostly, from a fan standpoint, this makes the most sense. You get games at times that work for the most audience. Playoff formats generally take care of themselves.

It doesn’t hurt that this format keeps the Blues away from that west coast nonsense.