The NHL's board of governors on Thursday approved realignment and a division-based playoff format for next season, a decision that was expected but was acknowledged by Commissioner Gary Bettman as not having been unanimous.
Under the new plan, which will be in effect for at least three seasons, the playoffs for the first time will include wild-card qualifiers. The league will operate under a two-conference, four-division setup in which the East will have 16 teams and the West will have 14. The Kings and Ducks will be grouped with Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver.
Another key feature matches every team against every other team at least twice per season, which hasn't been the case recently and caused long gaps between interconference visits of star players and popular teams. The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will shift from the West to the East and the Winnipeg Jets, stuck in the East after moving from Atlanta, will go to the West.
"We know that this realignment was extraordinarily important to a number of our clubs, particularly those that were playing so many of their games out of their time zones," Bettman said during a conference call. "This was intended to be a fan-friendly realignment and so fans will not have so many away games at times that made it more difficult to follow their favorite team."