With the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg realignment is necessary so the divisions don't look like the 14 years the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals were in the NFC East.
There've been a number of different proposals floating around. The Toronto Star had a few the other day, including one with an all-Canadian division. But the NHL -- if they do indeed go forward with a bigger realignment job than just simply swapping Winnipeg with Detroit or Columbus -- wants to try make the setup more travel and time zone friendly, which will be tough. Just look at the geography:
The setup of the NHL, with the way the teams are spread out, is going to leave with some team(s) not being happy with the final product. The Red Wings have wanted to move to the East for years. Dallas has to travel two time zones for their part in the Pacific Division. And Minnesota can't be happy either being in the Northwest.
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
New Jersey Devils
Tampa Bay Lightning
The old Patrick Division rivalries are preserved and the Caps are brought back into the regular mix. Some proposals have had the Penguins and Flyers moved away from this group. More games against the New York-area teams for the Lightning and Panthers are good for the snowbirds.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Columbus Blue Jackets
It's the Northeast Division plus the Canes and Jackets. Columbus gets the move to the East over Detroit, which will really help in the television broadcast department for that franchise that really needs a turnaround.
Detroit Red Wings
St. Louis Blues
Detroit gets the short stick yet again and stays in the West. I think too many Western teams will lobby to restrict them from moving because the Red Wings are such a great draw when they visit. Nashville has always been discussed as possibly moving to the East, but it'll come down to a numbers game and trying to balance the conferences out.
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks
Probably the easiest one to design. Just toss all the western-most teams into one division. Problem solved!
And you bet your ass we're going back to the old conference and division names.
While realignment talk has picked up over the past while, one question still remains that could throw a monkey wrench into everything.
What does the future hold for the Phoenix Coyotes?
They've been given a stay of execution for one season, but come this time next year, they could be in Hamilton, Kansas City, Quebec, etc. Who knows what ownership group might pop up promising security for another franchise that could be on the move. So unless the NHL discusses two separate realignment proposals at the next Board of Governors meetings, then all the talk could be for naught and we'll be doing this again in one year's time.
NHL geography map via The Hockey Guys