On the brink of another NHL expansion coming to Seattle, what would that mean for the Buffalo Sabres and the Atlantic Division?
Last year, the NHL announced that the league will be expanding to Las Vegas, welcoming the Golden Knights as they brought the first professional sports team into Sin City. It was a major move for all of sports, given that Vegas is the mecca of sports betting.
Not much changed when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the NHL, as far as a league realignment went. The Golden Knights were added to the Pacific Division in the Western Conference, but that was the only change that was made.
The Buffalo Sabres remained in the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference with the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings.
Unfortunately for the Sabres, not much changed in the record books, either. Instead, they had to watch Las Vegas become the greatest expansion team in NHL history, finishing the season 51-24-7 and making it all the way to the Stanley Cup. All of that while the Buffalo Sabres had another disappointing season finishing with the worst record in the NHL.
With another NHL expansion in the works, and actually quite close to becoming reality, this time it could work out in the Sabres’ favor. There has been a lot of talk over the past few years of Seattle being given the rights to an NHL team, as well as some other less-than-serious propositions like Quebec City. The addition of Seattle could happen as soon as the 2020-21 season.
If Seattle were to be given a team, it would be a great opportunity for the NHL to realign the league, which is currently unbalanced at 31 teams. It would also give the NHL a chance to update the playoff format to better support the newest additions.
Taking into account the geographical locations of each NHL team and trying to limit the amount of travel for NHL teams, the Buffalo Sabres could re-kindle some old divisional rivalries with a league realignment.
Let’s play hypothetical for a moment and say Seattle does join the NHL, what would the league realignment look like for the entire NHL? Well, let’s take a look:
Atlantic Division: Toronto Maple Leafs, Monteral Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.
Metropolitan Division: Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning
Central Division: St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Arizona Coyotes, Winnipeg Jets and the Minnesota Wild.
Pacific Division: Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle.
As you can see, quite a few changes being made to each division.
In the Western Conference, the Pacific Division would see the Arizona Coyotes leave, while adding the new Seattle franchise. The Central Division would see the Nashville Predators leave, while adding the Arizona Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings.
As far as the Metropolitan Division goes, they will hold a majority of the powerhouse teams, adding the Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. They would see the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils leave.
Lastly, the Atlantic Division, which is home to the Buffalo Sabres, would see the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings, welcoming the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils back into the Atlantic Division.
Historically, the Buffalo Sabres have played better against the Rangers, Islanders and Devils combined, compared to the Lightning, Panthers and Red Wings.
In franchise history, the Buffalo Sabres have totaled 502 gams, 237 wins, 180 losses, 60 ties, 25 overtime losses and 559 points against the Rangers, Islanders and Devils. Compare that to the Lightning, Panthers and Red Wings, the Sabres totaled 331 games, 162 wins, 135 losses, 22 ties and 75 overtime losses.
In addition to that, the Buffalo Sabres are currently rebuilding along with the Islanders and Rangers, which would give them a better chance in the standings. The Sabres’ main competition would be the Maple Leafs and Bruins in the Atlantic Division.
I think another expansion in the NHL would be beneficial to both the NHL and the Buffalo Sabres. It would bring back some old rivalries, including bringing together four of the original six teams, and would also give the NHL a reason to update the playoff format, bringing back the format where the high seed plays the low seed, no matter what division the teams are in.
Would you like to see the NHL expand to the Seattle area? What do you think of the potential league realignment and playoff format changes? Leave your comments below!