NHL realignment moved one significant step closer to completion as the players association signed off Thursday afternoon on the league’s proposal, which would reshape the two conferences and four divisions.
“After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season,” said NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr in a statement.
Pending approval by the league’s Board of Governors, the Kings and Ducks will be in a division next season with San Jose, Phoenix, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Board approval is considered a fait accompli.
For the two Southern California franchises, it will represent more Canadian travel and look quite a bit like the old Smythe Division the Kings used to play in.
Current divisional rival Dallas moves to a grouping that makes more geographic sense, joining Minnesota, Chicago, Colorado, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg.
The teams most affected are Detroit and Columbus, both moving from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference. For years, the Red Wings have been good soldiers, stuck with a difficult travel schedule with many road games often starting as late as 10:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Most controversial is the conference breakdown. There are 14 teams in the West and 16 in the East, and that plan raised opposition and questions of fairness since it would be easier to make the playoffs in the West.