When the Atlanta Thrashers were relocated to Winnipeg last spring most hockey fans were expecting some sort of realignment.
And, the NHL has announced such a shake-up, but not one that many of us had expected.
Instead of simply moving Winnipeg to the Western Conference and moving a current team in that division, like Detroit or Columbus, the board of governors, made up of owners or one representative from each team, chose major a realignment.
The NHL will now feature four conferences instead of the two-conference, six-team division format.
Under this new format, teams in seven-team conferences will play each other six times, and eight-team conferences will play their conference rivals five or six times.
For the Stanley Cup playoffs, sixteen teams will continue to make it, four from each conference. In the first round, the No. 4 seed in each conference will play the No. 1 seed and the No. 2 seed will play the No. 3 seed. Then, the winners will play.
Here’s what the conferences will look like beginning next season.
The realignment was put to a vote and was approved 24-6 by the board of governors. It’s believed that the new set-up will reduce traveling for certain teams, mainly those in the Western Conference.
“This will reduce the burden of travel on us,” said Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson, whose team— along with the Detroit Red Wings— were the only Eastern time zone teams in the Western Conference. “Where we settled after that, we didn’t have a strong preference. But I’m really pleased with how it worked out.”
While many are quick to blame Commissioner Gary Bettman, he said “I had nothing against the existing format,” and added “But for the move to Winnipeg we would not have been looking to change it.” He also said “We weren’t selling and we weren’t lobbying.”
This is the first major realignment in the NHL since 1998, but there remains one big question (besides the fact that two conferences are each a team short, expansion perhaps?). What will the four conferences be named?
I, for one, am all for nostalgia. Let’s bring back the Smythe, Norris, Adams and Patrick names.
It’s something that the fans would embrace, and the most logical. Seriously, what else could you call these four conferences?
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