NHL Approves Realignment Plan Adding Wild Card to PlayoffsMichael Buteau
The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors approved a realignment plan that will add a team to the Eastern Conference and change the names of the four divisions that make up the sport’s top circuit.
The plan creates two eight-team divisions in the East and two seven-team divisions in the West by switching the Winnipeg Jets to the West and the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets to the East. The four new divisions have yet to be named.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said on a media conference call that the league is considering division names that are “fan-friendly” and geographically based.
The changes were necessary after the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, following the 2010-11 season, Bettman said. The team, which was renamed the Jets, has remained in the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division since being relocated. The realignment was delayed by a lockout at the beginning of this season and the new collective bargaining agreement that resulted from it.
The NHL’s Eastern and Western Conferences each currently have five teams in three divisions. The realignment takes effect next season.
Each conference will still have eight teams in the playoffs, comprising the top three teams from each division and the next two teams with the best records as wild cards, the NHL said in a statement.
The 82-game schedule for Eastern teams will be made up of 30 games against division opponents, 24 non-division conference games and 28 non-conference contests. Western teams will play 29 games against division opponents, 21 against non-division conference teams and 32 against non-conference teams.
The changes, according to the NHL website, also affect the schedules and geographic groupings of the Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.
WESTERN CONFERENCE EASTERN CONFERENCEDivision A Division B Division C Division D Anaheim Chicago Boston Carolina Calgary Colorado Buffalo Columbus Edmonton Dallas Detroit New Jersey Los Angeles Minnesota Florida NY Islanders Phoenix Nashville Montreal NY Rangers San Jose St. Louis Ottawa Philadelphia Vancouver Winnipeg Tampa Bay Pittsburgh Toronto Washington