As the NHL owners debated the realignment plan that means so much to so few, there was a solution that will make everything fair for everyone, in that nobody would have liked it.But they got the jerry-rigged solution they wanted four conferences, with home and home games for everyone, the top four in each conference make the postseason, and the conferences no doubt named after famous cheeses, beers or curlers, and with no less grousing than before.Conference 1: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
Conference 2: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, WinnipegConference 3: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, TorontoConference 4: Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.Everyone in the room liked it, for the moment, anyway. But you know there will be continued gripes from the Detroit-to-the-east contingent, and whatever it is that Toronto bitches about at any given moment.So heres what it should have been the tri-tip cut. Straight across, west to east (wed say east to west, but why should those hyenas get what they want every time?). Nobody will like it, but everyones travel will stink evenly, and since rivalries arent built by geography but by playoff series, an even odor is the best kind.So here it is the only way to spread the misery so that nobody gets an advantage:The HelmetVancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, MontrealThe VisorMinnesota, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, the three New Yorks and BostonThe Protective CupSan Jose, Colorado, St. Louis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Carolina and WashingtonThe SkatesAnaheim and Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Nashville, Tampa Bay and FloridaAll the other notions are all about petty concerns, like whether Mike Ilitch can move Detroit to the East, or whether Ed Snider and Mario Lemieux can stay together, or whether, if you went by who has the looniest mayor, Toronto could be in a division by itself.And if we know anything about the way owners operate, their idea of whats good for the league is whats good for me, and the rest of the league can move its franchises to Mexico. Theyve always worked that way, and until recently, commissioner Gary Bettman has always heeded the guys with the loudest voices with the greatest proximity to his office.This, though, is the perfect plan, because there is no east or west over which to haggle. Every eastern team has some crappy western TV times, and every western team has long flights. Everyone has a bitch, but that bitching turns into a Beach Boys harmony because nobody sings louder than the others.And because it is perfect, it is therefore, of course, the plan, nobody has ever considered. Too bad too, because we were going give each division a name that would remind the owners of one other valuable lesson how to vet their partners better.Say, like the Ballard Division, for old Leafs owner and chief irritable coot Harold Ballard. Or the Wang Division for current Islanders owner Charles Wang, who has carefully but systematically screwed that franchise into the earths core. Or the DelBiaggio Division, for former Nashville part-owner Boots DelBiaggio, who went bankrupt and is now in jail, and the For Sale Now Just Name Your Price Division, after the longtime owner of the Phoenix club.Ahh, that probably wont work, either.Instead, well get some haggling and horse trading, and Bettman will make sure his finger is wet and pointed into the wind to find out whose proposal he likes best. Thats a commissioners job, after all to know when not to outrun his supply lines. Well, and one other thing to make sure the owners always gather in places like Pebble Beach forever, rather than screw up and have a meeting in Winnipeg.Or worse, Atlanta.