Three teams that will benefit and three teams that will suffer from NHL realignment

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Potential realignment in the NHL will be both a blessing and a curse.

While we await news on when the 2020-21 NHL season will start, it appears almost certain that we will get some kind of realignment due to the ongoing complications caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic.

It also looks like that we will get an all-Canadian Division for the year due to the current border issues, and that has the potential to be a lot of fun given that the likes of the Montreal Canadiens and the Calgary Flames seriously retooled during the offseason.

There are multiple incarnations out there on what realignment could look like, but we’ll stick with Greg Wyshynski of ESPN, who did some digging and came up with this:

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

East: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals.

Central: Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning.

West: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights.

Those new-look divisions are designed to reduce travel as much as possible in 2020-21 while allowing teams to play in their own buildings, with the NHL hoping that fans will be able to return at some point next year.

While it does has its downsides, as we explained here with the great Penguins – Flyers rivalry split up, realignment should give us some tasty matchups if it shapes out how Greg Wyshynski has envisioned it.

However, as is the case with most things, it will work out better for some than it will for others, and we have decided to take a look at the three teams that will benefit the most from Division realignment, and the three teams that will suffer the most.

Let’s delve right in…

Teams that will benefit

Austin Matthews, 34, Mitchell Marner, 16

Auston Matthews #34 and Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

1. Toronto Maple Leafs

It is the hope that kills you.

If any fanbase in the National Hockey League can truly relate to that statement, then it is the Toronto Maple Leafs who enter every season with the Stanley Cup firmly on their mind, only to be bitterly disappointed.

Despite having assembled enough firepower to sink a small fleet of battleships, the Leafs just can’t seem to get out of their own way, or out of the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

However, having retooled somewhat during the offseason by adding some much-needed grit to their lineup, 2020-21 could be different for the Maple Leafs and, if it is, then it could have a lot to do with the new-look division they will be in.

As mentioned above, it looks almost certain that we will have an all-Canadian Division for the 2020-21 NHL season and, if that is indeed the case, then it should benefit Toronto more than most.

After all, they boast a roster laden with offensive talent and star power with the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares all elite players.

Throw in Morgan Rielly on the backend coupled with the fact that Wayne Simmonds, T.J. Brodie and Zach Bogosian will give them a bit more of a sandpaper finish, then this team is good enough to make a deep run.

And, in an all-Canadian Division, they have the opportunity to really run the table against teams like the Ottawa Senators who are in rebuild mode. Granted, they still have to go up against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, not to mention Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames teams that have both improved, but the Maple Leafs won’t have to go up against the likes of the Tampa Bay Lightning or rivals the Boston Bruins, and they should use that as motivation to claim the crown as Kings of Canada and secure a top seed for the Playoffs.

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