It’s official: NHL realignment approved for next season

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The National Hockey League will have a decidedly new look in 2013-14.

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On Thursday, the league officially announced realignment had been approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors, the final step required after the NHLPA agreed to realignment seven days ago.

The most notable changes are Detroit and Columbus moving to the Eastern Conference and Winnipeg moving to the West. Dallas, Minnesota and Colorado will all stay in the Western Conference, but move into “more geographically appropriate and time-zone friendly” divisions.

The other notable change? The new new alignment ensures that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once a season for the first time since 1997-98.

Here’s the breakdown:

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As for the postseason…

The Stanley Cup Playoffs will still consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it will be division-based and a wild-card system has been added as a new wrinkle.

The top three teams in each division will make-up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It will be possible, then, for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.

The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lowest number of points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second fewest points.

The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. The winners of each series will play for the divisional championship.

As for the reaction to realignment? Responses have varied, though you can count Columbus among those pleased by the development.

“[This realignment] would help us in so many ways that it’s really hard to exaggerate how much it means to us,” Blue Jackets president Mike Priest told the Columbus Dispatch.

The club is anticipating bigger rivalries against the likes of regional foes such as New York, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Toronto, and is happy to be playing 68 games in the Eastern time zone (rather than 50-53 in previous seasons.)

For more on the new schedule matrix and breakdown of the alignment plan, click here.