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, TSN is reporting the latest realignment proposal is back to two conferences — Western and Eastern — with four divisions.
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
The playoff format calls for the top three teams in each division to earn post-season berths. The remaining four spots would go to wild-card teams, the top two records remaining in each conference. That means there’s a possibility five teams make it from one division and only three from another.
It would be divisional playoffs, not conference playoffs, so 1 vs. 4, 2 vs 3 in the first round. The two fourth seeds would be made up of the wild-card teams. The top division winner based on regular-season points in the standings would face off against the lower-ranked wild-card team. The other division winner would play the higher-ranked wild-card.
First-round winners then meet in second round in the division championship; Third round sees Pacific winner vs. Mid-West winner in Western Conference finals; Central winner versus Atlantic winner in Eastern Conference finals; Eastern and Western Conference champions meet in Stanley Cup finals.
The above plan still needs to be approved by the NHLPA and the NHL Board of Governors.
According to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, if the plan goes ahead, the league and union will meet after the 2015-16 season, “or earlier if circumstances warrant,” (translation: if there’s expansion or relocation) to decide if the system needs to be altered.
As for the regular-season schedule, Friedman reports:
It depends on whether you’re in a seven- or eight-team conference.
For the sevens (Midwest and Pacific) it looks like this:
- 32 games vs. Eastern Conference (one home, one away vs. each opponent).
- 21 games vs. other division in Western Conference (teams with the extra home game will be rotated every season).
- 29 games vs. own division (you will play one team four times instead of five).
For the eights (Atlantic and Central), it looks like this:
- 28 games vs. Western Conference (one home, one away).
- 24 games vs. other division in Eastern Conference (teams with the extra home game will be rotated every season).
- 30 games vs. own division (you’ll play two teams five times, and five teams four times).