Geography key to new NHL realignment

Geography key to new NHL realignment
March 14, 2013, 12:15 pm
Share This Post

Thanks to a drastic realignment of the NHL landscape, starting next season, the San Jose Sharks will play fewer regular season games against rivals such as the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings.

The National Hockey League's Board of Governors has approved realignment and a division-based format for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, effective for the 2013-14 season. The realignment plan creates two eight-team divisions in the Eastern Conference and two seven-team divisions in the Western Conference.

Under the current format, the Sharks would play division opponents six times. Under the new format, they will play division opponents up to five times. With Detroit leaving the Western Conference, the Sharks will only face the Red Wings two times, as opposed to four times under the current format.

The idea of realigning the league was broached in order to fix geographical issues.

Winnipeg, currently Southeast division in the Eastern Conference, will now be in the Western Conference and grouped with teams that play in the Central Time Zone.

Columbus and Detroit will move from the Central Division in the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference.

Dallas, Minnesota and Colorado will all be placed in a division with geographically similar teams.

The new alignment of the yet-to-be-named divisions breaks down like this:

WESTERN CONFERENCE:
Division A:
Anaheim
Calgary
Edmonton
Los Angeles
Phoenix
San Jose
Vancouver

Division B:
Chicago
Colorado
Dallas
Minnesota
Nashville
St. Louis
Winnipeg

EASTERN CONFERENCE:
Division C:
Boston
Buffalo
Detroit
Florida
Montreal
Ottawa
Tampa Bay
Toronto

Division D:
Carolina
Columbus
New Jersey
NY Islanders
NY Rangers
Philadelphia
Pittsburgh
Washington

NEW REGULAR-SEASON SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN:
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

NEW STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF FORMAT

Playoff qualification will be primarily Division-based, with the top three finishers in each Division qualifying for the first 12 spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (and the first three "seeds" in each Division).

The two additional playoff spots in each Conference, designated as "Wild Cards," will be awarded to the next two highest-placed finishers in each Conference, ranked on the basis of regular-season points and regardless of Division.

"Seeding" of the Wild Card teams within each Divisional Playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The first-place finisher with the highest number of regular-season points in the Conference will be matched against the Wild Card team with the lowest number of regular-season points, and the first-place finisher with the second-highest number of regular-season points in the Conference matched against the Wild Card team with the second-lowest number of regular-season points.

The Playoffs will proceed as follows:

* #1 vs. #4 / #2 vs. #3 -- winners play each other for berth in Conference Championship
* Conference Finals -- Two advancing teams in the West and two advancing teams in the East meet in Conference Championship
* Eastern and Western Conference Champions will meet in Stanley Cup Final.

NHL Media Services contributed to this report