Report: NHL proposes realignment, new playoff format
The National Hockey League is proposing a new realignment plan that would see the League go from six divisions to four divisions and introduce a form of divisional playoffs instead of the current conference system in place for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, according to a report by ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.
The plan was detailed in a memo sent to the League's clubs Tuesday, according to LeBrun.
The plan needs approval from the National Hockey League Players' Association and the League's Board of Governors. If it passes, it would take effect for the 2013-14 regular season.
"We have been in discussions with the Players' Association for the past several weeks on the issue of realignment and we are trying to get to a solution that everybody can live with," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com. "There are no perfect answers here, so we have to do the best we can in trying to adequately address a number of competing concerns. Once we get to a point where we have the Union's go-ahead, we will present it to our Board of Governors for its consideration. We certainly hope to be in a position to announce something in the relatively near term."
Under the new plan, the conferences would be realigned with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings moving from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference. There would be no corresponding moves by Eastern Conference clubs, resulting in unbalanced-conference alignment that would see 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the Western Conference.
The schedule matrix would see each team play teams in the other conference both home and away.
In the seven-team divisions, teams would play intraconference foes three times per season and five of the six intradivision foes five times a season. The sixth opponent within the division would be played four times. In the eight-team divisions, teams would play intraconference opponents three times and intradivision opponents either four or five times per season on a rotating basis.
Due to the unbalanced conferences, the League has proposed introducing a wild-card element to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, according to LeBrun.
Under the proposed system, the top three teams in each of the four divisions would qualify for the postseason. The final four spots would go to the two teams in each conference with the next-best records. So, in theory, five teams from one division and just three from the other division in each respective conference could make the postseason.
CBC's Elliotte Friedman first broke many of the details of the potential realignment plan, including the composition of the divisions, Saturday.
The Atlantic and Central divisions would be in the East, while the Midwest and Pacific divisions would be in the West.
According to the memo, the Pacific Division would include the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks, while the Midwest Division would be the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.
The Central Division would be the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs. The reconfigured Atlantic Division would include the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.