NHL's divisional realignment taking shape for 2020-21 season

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TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 27: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs takes a face-off against Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilersduring the first period at the Scotiabank Arena on February 27, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 27: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs takes a face-off against Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilersduring the first period at the Scotiabank Arena on February 27, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the Canadian government holding firm on the restrictions on cross-border travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL has no choice but to roll out an All-Canadian division for the 2020-21 season. And now it seems the league has the framework in place for what was left of the divisional realignment.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun shared what the division structure looks like at this current moment as the NHL continues working toward a mid-January start, cautioning that it remains subject to change.

Without official names at this point, the divisions are broken down loosely by geographic position, with a group of teams belonging to the northeast, another involving the midwest and southeast United States, as well as a grouping of the eight franchises inhabiting the southwest.

Division 1: Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets

Division 2: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals

Division 3: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning

Division 4: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Los Angles Kings, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights

It’s unclear how positioning inside the division will impact the postseason race and playoff positioning at this time, but we have to work under the assumption that there will be the normal incentive to place well. So, some immediate takeaways:

  • St. Louis might have the most reason to be aggrieved. The balance of power tilts toward the west coast division with the Blues’ inclusion, and the travel won’t be easy.

  • Tampa Bay and Carolina seem to have a considerable advantage. Their divisional competition finished 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 23rd and 31st in the NHL last season.

  • Teams like Buffalo, New Jersey and even the Rangers will have difficulty taken steps forward in such a competitive division that features four of the top seven teams from last year.

  • Belonging to the smallest division may or may not be an advantage to the Canadian teams. Six of the seven from the grouping should have aspirations to finish first, meaning there will be few off nights.

  • The NHL is really gonna have to be creative when naming these divisions, because how in the world do you cover the bases from Minnesota to Sunrise?

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