NHL approves four-conference realignment scheme

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After “about an hour” of discussion, the NHL’s Board of Governors approved a radical new four-conference realignment setup by a vote of 26-4. (It must be noted that it won’t be implemented until Gary Bettman meets with the NHLPA.)

First things first, let’s take a look at which teams will end up in each conference starting in the 2012-13 season, according to the NHL. (Note: the conferences haven’t been named yet, so I’ll just assign a number for each at the moment.)

Conference “1”: Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes.

Conference “2”: Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild.

Conference “3”: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.

Conference “4”:  Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals.

Are you more of a “visual learner”? Check out this handy map of the conferences via Cassie McClellan of Raw Charge.

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Of course, the biggest question is how it will affect the playoffs. The NHL’s release explains that the top four teams in each conference will be seeded based on total points, with the first seed against the fourth and the second versus the third. After that, the conference winners will face off in the final four. (In other words, there will still be 16 teams in the postseason, even if the playoffs will be very different.)

As far as how things go in the last two rounds (once the conference winners are determined), TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that process will be determined during a future meeting in March.

Another key thing to remember is that non-divisional opponents will see each other at least twice per season, with each team receiving a home game. Here’s how the in-division scheduling will pan out, then:

  • Franchises in the seven-team conferences will play against each other six times, with three road and three home games.
  • Franchises in the eight-team conferences will play each other “five or six times in a season on a rotating basis,” with three teams battling it out six times and four teams doing so on five occasions. That process will flip-flop the following season, so the teams that played each other five times will switch to six and vice versa.

Consider these bits the “meat and potatoes.” Feel free to share your opinions on these changes and stay tuned for more from PHT.