With the pandemic continuing to rage on and the lack of a bubble, the NHL decided that they needed to change up the divisions for the upcoming 2020-21 season to ensure that they can keep travel and interactions to a minimum.
While the idea is all well and good, the temporary realignments could have been an issue for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Already playing in a stacked Metropolitan Division, some slight changes could have occurred and it would have made the division all the tougher.
As of this writing, other teams reportedly in the Blue Jackets' new division include the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, and the Minnesota Wild.
Not finalized yet, and still subject to change, but the 2020-21 four-division re-alignment currently looks like this according to sources:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 9, 2020
Funny enough, there has been reported pushback by the NHL Board of Governors and that could mean that a couple of teams including the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild could be swapping.
As colleague @RussoHockey reported, Minnesota could swap again. Also hear Dallas is a possibility. Could be a few other tweaks. Clearly some governors on Wednesday's call who weren't pleased with the temporary divisions as presented. So stay tuned.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 11, 2020
TSN insider Pierre LeBrun doesn't believe that they will finalize this realignment until a little while yet but we can begin to speculate what exactly the Blue Jackets are going to be up against.
It should be said that the Blue Jackets made out in this realignment like complete bandits. They see a vast majority of the Metropolitan Division leave their ranks and they get to see a bunch of rebuilding teams instead.
The Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks are going to be decidedly bad. They should be fodder for the rest of the division. The Predators, Panthers, and Wild (who may not be in the division by next week) are borderline playoff teams that have seen their status in the league fluctuate from season to season. The Hurricanes and the Lightning are going to be the true teams that the Blue Jackets are worried about. Both have an extensive history with Columbus and in recent years have had some battles that fans won't forget.
As the Blue Jackets try to find themselves offensively and possibly ween in a couple of younger players, the situation couldn't be better. It shouldn't come as a surprise if they find themselves near the top of the division and compete for a top slot.
Playoff Race Implications
It hasn't been immediately determined how the games within the division and within the conference are going to be played. It also isn't immediately clear how the playoffs are going to be determined and if a change is going to happen there.
Given how the playoffs have been in the past, the top three teams in each division will likely be the teams seeing the playoffs with two wild card spots. It will be interesting to see how the Group of Death (the other Eastern Conference) division shakes out but it wouldn't be surprising to see them put five teams in if the playoffs stay the same.
That means if the Blue Jackets are to make the playoffs, they need that top three slot. If they are playing other Eastern teams, it could be a blood bath to get enough points. Staying inter-division, Columbus would thank their lucky stars.
It is obviously a fluid situation that can change in a moment's notice making the season even funkier than what we saw in the bubble last year. Get ready for more changes and cross your fingers it benefits the hometown team.
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