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NHL proposes four-division realignment, adding playoff wild cards

February 26, 2013|By Helene Elliott
  • Under a proposed conference realignment plan next season the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets would move to the Eastern Conference.
Under a proposed conference realignment plan next season the Detroit Red… (Carlos Osorio / Associated…)

The NHL revised its proposed realignment for next season to form two conferences with two divisions each and restructure the playoffs to begin with divisional matchups instead of matchups within the conference. The league sent its plan to clubs this week for their review, but it must also be approved by the NHL Players’ Assn.

If the union approves, the NHL’s Board of Governors could vote on the proposal next week. If it passes, the new format will go into effect next season.

As with its previous plan, Detroit and Columbus would move to the East. But instead of four conferences, there would be only two and their numbers would be unbalanced, with 16 teams in the East and 14 in the West. They would be grouped as follows:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic division: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.

Central division: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto.

Western Conference

Midwest division: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg.

Pacific division: Ducks, Kings, Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver.

ESPN.com reported that the top three teams in each of the four divisions would qualify for the playoffs. The final four spots would go to the two teams in each conference with the next-best records.

During the regular season, each team would play the other 29 in a home-and-home series, which has not been the case in recent years.

In seven-team divisions, teams would play conference rivals three times per season and five of the six division foes five times a season. The sixth opponent within the division would be played four times. In the eight-team divisions, teams would play conference opponents three times and division opponents either four or five times per season on a rotating basis.

A previous NHL realignment proposal was blocked by the union, which said some teams would have to travel more under a new plan.

There's no perfect way to do this, but the NHL was intent on moving Detroit from the West to the East because the Red Wings felt they were at a disadvantage with so many of their road games starting late, at times that were inconvenient for their fans.  

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