By Caps Girl
The NHL announced on Monday, 12/5/11, that it’s Board of Governors voted to realign the NHL from the current 2-conference/6-division set-up to 4 yet-to-be-named conferences. This change was precipitated by the move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, (where they were renamed the Jets); and to address concerns of several Western Conference teams regarding extensive travel and changes to game start times; which they felt negatively impacted their fan base. This change will take place beginning next year for the 2012-2013 NHL season.
The four new conferences will be composed as follows:
~ Washington, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Carolina
~ Boston, Florida, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay
~ Los Angeles, Anaheim, Colorado, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton
~ Detroit, Dallas, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, and Winnipeg
With this new alignment, NHL fans will get the chance to see every team at least once a year, as all teams will play each other at least twice a season, once at home and once on the road. In the 7-team conferences, the teams would play each other 6 times a season, 3 at home and 3 away. In the 8-team conferences, the teams will play each other either 5 or 6 times a season (on a rotating basis).
This new alignment will also change the format of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The four top teams in each conference will qualify for the Playoffs, with 1st place playing against 4th place, and 2nd place playing against 3rd place, in the first round. The third round of the Playoffs will consist of the four top teams of each conference, with the two conference winners facing each other in the Stanley Cup Finals. (The seeding of the teams below the top 4 of each conference will be determined in March.)
Although the Board of Governors approved the realignment in a 24 to 4 vote, it still needs to be approved by the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA).