NHL realignment now official: Wild card playoffs, four divisions for next season



The NHL Board of Governors has approved realignment for the 2013-14 season, sending the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Eastern Conference, the Winnipeg Jets to the Western Conference and reformatting the League into four divisions – 16 teams in the East, 14 in the West.

This follows the NHLPA signing off on the plan last week, with the option to “re-evaluate” the format after a minimum of three seasons. So for at least the next two seasons, the NHL will look like this. (Barring, you know, any potential relocations. Like, say, if one team was playing a desert and couldn’t find an owner. Just spit-ballin’ here.)

From the NHL:
So the Jets leave the Southeast for what amounts to the Central, along with the Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars. The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks join the “Pacific”. The Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes join the “Atlantic”. The Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers join the “Northeast”.

Here are the essentials on realignment …

• For the first time since 1997-98, all 30 teams will visit every NHL arena at least once per season. Congrats, Western Canada: You get your Sidney Crosby fix!
• Here’s the playoff format for next season, via Dan Rosen of NHL.com:
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.

• Here’s the scheduling matrix for realignment, via the NHL:
Western Conference (7-Team Divisions)
Within Conference (Division): 29 games
* 5 games vs. five teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. two teams, 2 Home/3 Away vs.
three teams) AND 4 games vs. one team (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a
yearly basis.
* 5 X 5 =25 games
* 1 X 4 = 4 games
Within Conference (Non-Division): 21 games
* 3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs.
three teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 3 X 7 = 21 games
Non-Conference: 32 games
* 2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
* 2 X 16 = 32 games
(Exception: one team from each division plays one less game inside Division
and one more game inside Conference outside Division)
Eastern Conference (8-Team Divisions)
Within Conference (Division): 30 games
* 5 games vs. two teams (3 Home/2 Away vs. one team, 2 Home/3 Away vs. one
team) AND 4 games vs. five teams (2 Home/2 Away). Teams rotated on a yearly
basis.
* 5 X 2 =10 games
* 4 X 5 = 20 games
Within Conference (Non-Division): 24 games
* 3 games vs. each team (2 Home/1 Away vs. four teams, 1 Home/2 Away vs.
four teams). Teams rotated on a yearly basis.
* 3 X 8 = 24 games
Non-Conference: 28 games
* 2 games vs. each team (1 Home/1 Away)
* 2 X 14 = 28 games

•••

So there you go. All we’re left with now are deciding the division names (Patrick Adams, Norris, Smythe … done and done).
And, of course, deciding when the NHL should expand to even things out. Oh hi Seattle …