In December of 2011, the NHL announced a “radical” realignment plan that split the league into four “conferences” as opposed to its current structure of two conferences with three divisions in each.
The NHLPA eventually scuttled the plan, citing concerns over travel as well as the fairness of the proposed playoff qualification system.
Now, realignment is back on the table (this time, the league and union are working out the details together), and according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, the NHL is hoping to put everything to bed in two weeks or so (via Yahoo!’s Nick Cotsonika).
But Daly says this realignment plan will be slightly different than the last one, which featured the following four conferences:
—- New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Washington and Carolina
—- Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo, Florida and Tampa Bay
—- Detroit, Columbus, Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Dallas and Winnipeg
—- Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Colorado
Daly wouldn’t say what’s changed — there will still be four conferences, so we can only assume some teams have been shuffled around.
Did it make sense having the two Florida teams playing in the same division as Boston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Buffalo instead of being grouped with other southern teams like Carolina, Nashville and/or Dallas?
What about keeping Winnipeg out of a division with natural (and old Smythe Division) rivals Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver?
That’s for the league and players to decide.
Under the NHL’s plan, the top four teams in each conference would make the postseason. The first two rounds of the playoffs would be played within the conference (1 v 4, 2 v 3) with the four surviving teams advancing to the semi-finals.
Which is to say, postseason familiarity is going to create some serious rivalries, a la the once-great Battle of Alberta. So while travel distance should obviously be a factor in determining who goes where, other factors like history and the team’s country will likely be considered as well.
If all goes well, NHL owners should vote on new realignment plan week of Feb. 25th
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 13, 2013