NHL News

NHL Realignment Plan Approved for 2014: What It Means

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[Photo via NHL.com]

The NHL Board of Governors announced today that it has approved a realignment plan effective next season. The plan places 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the West. There will be four divisions, tentatively named Divisions A, B, C and D, which will be formally named at a later date. The new playoff format is as follows:

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 berths in the Conference Championship series.

The two divisional champions in each conference will then play in the conference finals to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

This new alignment will last a minimum of three years. For a detailed breakdown of the new scheduling matrix, read the NHL’s release.

A few thoughts:

  • The lopsided conferences is a fairly obvious sign to me that the NHL will likely be expanding in the near future, presumably into Seattle and Quebec City.
  • It is safe to say that the Bruins’ Division C is the toughest of the four. With the exception of the Panthers, each of the teams in the division are worthy contenders, especially with the inclusion of the Red Wings.
  • Though it’ll make the playoff chase that much more difficult, I’m actually looking forward to some action against the Wings.
  • This means that Division C will contain four Original Six teams, with the Rangers in Division D and the Blackhawks in Division B. I didn’t like this at first glance, but the potential for rivalry marketing is now endless.
  • The NHL finally gets the Pens/Caps divisional rivalry its always wanted. Crosby/Ovechkin will never be Magic/Bird, especially with #8’s abysmal play as of late. On the bright side, the Blue Jackets inclusion in Division D presents the possibility for a quality rivalry with Pittsburgh.
  • Winnipeg is moved to a less ridiculous time zone. Good for them.
  • As Dan Rosen of NHL.com pointed out on Twitter, every team will play in every arena at least one time for the first time since 1997-98. That’s nifty, I guess.
  • The new playoff format is totally unnecessary, and I can’t help but feel that the inclusion of a wild card is just another crude attempt to Americanize the product — an idea no better than Southern expansion.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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