Bruins players said last week they didn’t have any major problems with an NHL realignment plan that includes adding the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings to their existing division. An extra trip or two to Florida per year wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, and the Wings’ addition would clearly add some cachet to a division that already boasts Original Six teams in Boston, Montreal and Toronto.
The Maple Leafs/Red Wings rivalry was once a very potent hockey combo, and it would appear the NHL wants to rekindle things between them.
“[Divisional playoffs] would definitely increase rivalries, right? So I’m sure that’s an angle they were trying to work with,” Milan Lucic said. “I’m also sure Detroit is happy to be coming back to the East side, and it just adds another Original Six rivalry to us, Montreal and Toronto in our division.”
But there is one specific tweak Lucic would like to see: The NHL needs to come up with a better name than the Central Division for a group that includes Eastern franchises like Boston, Florida and Montreal.
There’s always going back to the old Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe Divisions as in the glory days of old time hockey. But there are other more creative options to bring the new NHL divisions into the 21st century.
So what is Lucic’s solution?
There’s a popular movement to rename the divisions after some of the NHL’s greatest players, and that’s an idea with some staying power. It would allow the NHL to honor some of the best players through the history of the league without creating a new slew of NHL awards to be named after them.
At the end of the day who wouldn’t mind seeing the Orr Division, Gretzky Division, Lemieux Division and Howe Division dotted across the newly realigned hockey landscape?
“It will be cool, for sure. I think they should definitely come up with some cool group names, though. Right now we’re called the Central [Division] and we can look at the Atlantic Ocean walking out of the rink here,” said Lucic. “But beyond that, whatever happens, happens and I’ll be prepared for that.
“I heard [NBC Sports hockey analyst] Pierre McGuire come up the Orr Division, the Gretzky Division, the Lemieux Division trying to name them after the four greatest players in the history of hockey. I thought that was a good idea if they can come up with it.”
The NHL realignment plan needs to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA before it becomes a reality, so divisional names is probably a backburner issue at this point. But it’s also something to think about rather than slapping misleading, boring geographical names for each of the four divisions.