NHL Approves Momentous Realignment Plan
The NHL Board of Governors approved a paradigm destroying plan that would shift the NHL to a four conference league, rather than a two conference - six division one.
The plan, which is already being characterized as 'radical', is a direct result of the Atlanta Thrashers' move to Winnipeg. The club, now known as the Jets, call central Canada (just north of the Minnesota-North Dakota border) home, though currently play in the Southeast division of the Eastern Conference. Their closest division rival is the Washington Capitals, roughly half of the United States away. This geographic lunacy was never meant to be a long-term solution and the NHL wasted no time in remedying it.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and his crew, came up with two plans, one that would involving the shifting of only two or three teams between conferences, and one that would dramatically change the landscape of the league. The NHL chose the latter, shucking conventional wisdom and years of two-conference tradition that has been established by all four major sports. The four conference plan will create two conferences of eight teams and two of seven, separated based on geographic location, however bitter rivals were kept together wherever possible. Barring any changes, the conferences will shake down thus:
A: Anaheim, Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose, Vancouver
B: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg
C: Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
D: Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Each team will play their division rivals five or six times a season, according to an ESPN article. The plan also calls for home-and-home matchups between all teams, meaning that, like the NBA, each team will play the entire league at least twice. At the end of the season the top four teams in each conference will make the playoffs, the first two rounds of which will consist entirely of intra-conference match ups. After those two rounds each conference will have a champion and we'll have a final four.
The plan has not become league policy yet. The NHL has said that they will consult with the NHLPA before any final decision is made. Still, yesterday's vote was a large hurdle cleared by this game changing plan. Indeed, the Board of Governor's decision Monday may go a long way to changing the face of the NHL as we know it.