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A look at the potential ‘West’ Division for the 2021 NHL season

Josh Manson #42 of the Anaheim Ducks skates to a puck during the second period of a game against the St. Louis Blues at Honda Center on March 11, 2020 in Anaheim, California. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

We’ve known that border concerns would temporarily realign the NHL for the 2020-21 season, but ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski has crafted a general idea of what the rest of the divisions will look like, based on “several sources.”

For the Anaheim Ducks, they’ll be part of a “West” Division, including Pacific Division mainstays the San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights, Los Angeles Kings and Arizona Coyotes. Because the old Pacific Division will lose out on three Canadian teams — the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames — they would gain the next three furtherest West teams in the United States. The Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche would inject some life into a division that was easily the weakest overall during the 2020 season.

Wyshynski also notes that a five-division plan has also been mentioned as a possibility, likely to further limit travel, especially since it seems like team owners want to move away from the hybrid hub cities plan and host games in their own arenas. Five divisions would break up the US teams into four divisions of six teams each, leaving a seven-team Canadian Division.

This plan comes with less certainty about how exactly it’d be broken up, but assuming geography is the main factor, the West Division would likely be the five former Pacific Division teams plus Dallas, which once again leaves a fairly weak division.

As noted, the hub city plan is losing its approval. It sounds like the players are favoring a baseball style schedule, allowing for a series of games against the same team over a period of a few days to limit travel.

The four-division plan, in that case, might make it harder for the Ducks to be in compete-now mode, as they’ll be seeing a good amount of the Avalanche, Stars and Knights. But a five-division plan knocks out a heavy-hitter in Colorado. The Kings aren’t quite at the turning point of their rebuild, the Sharks have really only improved on the margins ... a five-division NHL might open up the West just enough for the Ducks to sneak back into playoffs.