It was only a matter of time before realignment struck the NHL. It would be crazy to have the Winnipeg Jets continue to play in the Southeast Division (former logical home of the Atlanta Thrashers). Today, a new plan was approved to move some teams around and to have 4 “divisions”. Here is a breakdown of the new look NHL.
The NHL’s Board of Governors approved the realignment plan proposed last week.
The new four-division plan, featuring a new-look set-up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will go into effect next season.
The NHL and NHLPA each had input into the plan to realign the League into a more geographically appropriate two-conference, four-division format that features 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference.
The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets are moving to the Eastern Conference to provide them the ability to play the majority of their games against teams in the same time zone. The Winnipeg Jets are moving to the Western Conference for the same reason.
The Dallas Stars are staying in the Western Conference, but moving into a division that includes five other teams from the Central time zone.
With the new alignment comes a new Playoff breakdown. Here are the details for that:
The Stanley Cup Playoffs will still consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it will be division-based and a wild-card system has been added as a new wrinkle.
The top three teams in each division will make-up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It will be possible, then, for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.
The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lowest number of points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second fewest points.
The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. The winners of each series will play for berths in the Conference Championship series.
The two divisional champions in each conference will then play in the conference finals to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Step one has been completed. The next step is coming up with better names. It would look kinda dumb to see my Maple Leafs raising a “Division C” champions banner after next year.
What do you think of the new alignment in the NHL?