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NHL governors approve realignment, new playoff format

March 14, 2013|By Helene Elliott
  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and other league executives are scheduled to take part in a conference call with reporters Thursday to discuss the league's realignment and new playoff format.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and other league executives are scheduled… (Frank Franklin II / Associated…)

The NHL Board of Governors approved realignment and a change to the Stanley Cup playoff format, as expected, with the changes to take effect for the 2013-14 season.

The Eastern Conference will have two eight-team divisions, and the West will have two seven-team divisions. For the moment, those divisions have the poetic names of A, B, C and D, but those will be changed later, the league announced on Thursday.

The NHL Players’ Assn., which rejected a previous realignment proposal, has consented to playing under the new alignment and playoff system at least through the 2015-16 season, when the alignment and format will be reviewed.

Commissioner Gary Bettman and other league executives were scheduled to take part in a conference call with reporters at noon (Pacific) Thursday to discuss the changes.

The playoff format will be altered to include wild cards. The top three finishers in each division will qualify for the playoffs and the two additional playoff spots will go to the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, ranked on the basis of regular-season points and regardless of division. The wild cards teams’ seeding will be based on regular-season points.

The big winners in realignment are the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets. Detroit and Columbus will move from the West to the East, giving them starting times for most road games that will be more convenient for fans than the late road starts they now have. The Jets, left in the East after the franchise moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg, will move to the West.

Here's how it will set up, complete with the NHL's color-coded map that appears to show Florida being annexed by Canada and the northern United States:

Division A: Ducks, Kings, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks;

Division B: Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets;

Division C: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs;

Division D: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals.

According to the NHL, here’s how the regular-season schedule will work:

Western Conference (Seven-team divisions)

Within Conference (Division): 29 games

* Five games vs. five teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. two teams, 2 Home/3 Away vs. three teams) AND four games vs. one team (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on yearly basis

* 5 X 5 =25 games.

* 1 X 4 = 4 games.

Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games

* Three games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs. three teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.

* 3 X 7 = 21 games.

Non-Conference: 32 games

* Two games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)

* 2 X 16 = 32 games

(Exception: One team from each division plays one less game inside Division and
one more game inside Conference outside Division)

Eastern Conference (Eight-team divisions)

Within Conference (Division): 30 games

* Five games vs. two teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. one team, 2 Home/3 Away vs. one team)
AND four games vs. five teams (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.

*5 X 2 =10 games.

* 4 X 5 = 20 games.

Within Conference (Non-Division): 24 games

* Three games vs. each team (two home/one away vs. four teams, one home/two away vs. four
teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.

* 3 X 8 = 24 games

Non-Conference: 28 games

* Two games vs. each team (one home/one away)

* 2 X 14 = 28 games

The playoff format, which will include wild cards for the first time, will be division-based. In the first round, the division winner with the most points will be matched against the wild-card team with the lowest number of regular-season points, and the division winner with the second-highest number of regular-season points in the conference will face the wild card team with the second-lowest number of regular-season points.The playoffs will proceed as follows:

* #1 vs. #4 / #2 vs. #3 -- winners play each other for berth in conference championship.

* Conference finals -- Two advancing teams in the West and two advancing teams in the East meet in conference championship

* Eastern and Western conference champions will meet in Stanley Cup Final.

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