Last year when the Atlanta Thrashers bolted for Winnipeg, the NHL opted not to re-align on such short notice and as such the Southeast Division has since been home to two teams in Florida, one in Carolina, another in DC, and one in the Canadian prairies.
It's seeming more and more likely that Phoenix will not be an NHL city beyond this season. That's important to the Kings because having a team there since 1996 has meant a road city not too far away. The two best options for their new destination appear to be Seattle and Quebec City. What does this mean for the Kings?
If the Coyotes leave, will the NHL again choose not to re-align? And what if it does? Who's moving?
Let's say the Coyotes go to Seattle. It would be easy to re-align in that instance- just swap them for the Avalanche. Even if you didn't, Seattle would not be too bad in the Kings' division; at least it's in the Pacific time zone and it would be a natural place to tack onto road trips that currently take the Kings through western Canada. Of course it would make a lot more sense to just do the swap and give the Canucks and Seattle their natural divisional rivalry, but hey this is the NHL we're talking about so who knows what they'll do.
Quebec City is another story altogether. If Quebec City was kept in the Pacific Division they would be over 3000 miles from the Kings, Ducks, and Sharks (though slightly under 2000 miles from the Stars, which is only 500 miles farther than the Kings are from them now). To put that in perspective, Vancouver and Boston are only about 100 miles farther apart than LA and Quebec and they were the two most distant cities to meet in the Stanley Cup Finals in over a century (http://nitzyshockeyden.blogspot.com/2011/05/most-far-flung-stanley-cup-finals.html). It is also worth noting that while Winnipeg is a lot farther from its Southeast Division mates than Atlanta was, it is still only about 800 miles farther from to its farthest division rival (the Panthers in Miami) than the Kings and Stars are; and while the Winnipeg-in-the-Southeast scheme was meant to be temporary, the Kings and Stars have shared a division for well over a decade.
In a league that is already dominated by teams located in the northeast, what are the options if the NHL lets the Coyotes relocate to Quebec City? If you move a team from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference you would have to move an Eastern team West to balance things out, but the big push of late has been to get teams like Detroit, Columbus, and Nashville moved East where they geographically really belong. Who else from the Eastern Conference could legitimately be moved West?
Winnipeg is probably the only option. It would not be that tough to swap Phoenix/Quebec for Winnipeg and then Winnipeg for Colorado. That way you'd end up with a Pacific Division including the Kings, Ducks, Sharks, Stars, and Avs; a Northwest with the Canucks, Flames, Oilers, Jets, and Wild; and a Southeast with the Caps, Panthers, Lightning, Canes, and Quebec. Quebec is even in southeastern Canada, so it kinda works.
But I think you have to do that immediately because you cannot screw teams like the Kings with three road trips a year to Quebec, especially when they are already always among the league leaders in miles logged traveling. Is the NHL willing to make an immediate re-alignment of 3 teams like that? I sure hope so!
Because the Coyotes are not moving to Seattle with its complete lack of a viable stadium now or really in the foreseeable future.